Pickleball explosion continues: biergarten/sports attraction to open along Saluda River

Posted 1/4/24

Within the year, you should be able to enjoy happy hour and a popular sport in one spot along one of the area’s rivers.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Subscribe to continue reading. Already a subscriber? Sign in

Get 50% of all subscriptions for a limited time. Subscribe today.

You can cancel anytime.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Pickleball explosion continues: biergarten/sports attraction to open along Saluda River


Within the year, you should be able to enjoy happy hour and a popular sport in one spot along one of the area’s rivers.

PickleGarden on the River is set to open at 680 Candi Ln. in Columbia, near the Saluda Riverwalk and Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. Taking up 4.75 acres, the unique new business will feature “12 spacious pickleball courts, 10,000 square feet of turf and biergarten space, a mixed-use space to be utilized as a members lounge or event space, a climate-controlled indoor/outdoor space overlooking the venue and access to the Riverwalk on the Lower Saluda River,” according to a release.

The business venture was co-founded by Abbott “Tre” Bray and Charles Gee, with Bray telling the Chronicle the pair found a love for pickleball and noticed a massive shortage of playing locations within the Southeast. 

“PickleGarden isn't just about play; it's about savoring delicious eats, soaking up the outdoors and creating lasting memories with loved ones,” Bray is quoted in the release.“We're bringing joy, inspiring health and promoting the outdoors — one pickleball rally, one craft beer sip, one river walk up the Saluda River at a time.”

While the development is planned to be complete by the end of 2024, the start of construction and the cost is still up in the air, with Bray saying that they are currently working with local investors and are in the “fundraising financing” stage of the project.

He emphasized that with PickleGarden they wanted to provide something different than “the gentrification concept of breweries .. that go into an industrial area trying to revitalize.”

“We wanted to provide something a little different, where it was, ‘Hey,  we’re going into a natural space and try to get people away from cell phones and industrial spaces and kind of back out into nature and be active and healthy.'" Bray said. "So we found that piece of property and kind of built a plan around that property.”

He added that if they hadn’t been able to secure the Candi Lane property, they were going to let go of the idea.

Bray is already a visible figure in the Midlands, serving Lexington County School District 2 as a member of the Board of Trustees and having recently come up short in a bid to become the mayor of Cayce.

The release, issued via Colliers South Carolina, which brokered the sale of the parcel set to be occupied by PickleGarden, touts the development as the only food and drink establishment that will exist on the same side as Riverbanks off Interstate 126. 

According to Bray, the business’s location will provide an easily accessible food option for families leaving the zoo which they are roughly a quarter mile from. When it came to the food He claimed that there will be a large variety of options and follow a sport-bar type menu style.

“This property has generated a lot of excitement. Positioned along the Saluda River above Millrace Rapids, it will be one of the only commercially developed, private tracts utilizing one of the three under-utilized Columbia rivers,” Ryan McCue, senior brokerage associate in Colliers’ Columbia office, is quoted. “The Riverwalk runs along the water's edge and will eventually allow for pedestrians and cyclists to navigate from the Lake Murray Dam on the Saluda River all the way to the former SCE&G/Dominion Energy campus in Cayce along the Congaree River. PickleGarden on the River is adjacent to a new City of Columbia park and a future footbridge connecting to the other side of the river.”

The area around Candi Lane has seen rampant activity in recent years, as the Saluda Riverwalk officially opened to the public in 2021. The City of Columbia recently added a new ease-of-entry access point to the river there, celebrating the improvement in December a couple months after celebrating the official opening of the Boyd Island Sanctuary at the Congaree River end of the Saluda Riverwalk. Plans are also moving forward to install a walking bridge connecting the Saluda Riverwalk across the Congaree River to the riverwalk along the Columbia Canal.

Bray touched on the ongoing development along the river, speaking enthusiastically of the plan to connect the Saluda Greenway to the riverwalk across the river and eventually on up to the Lake Murray Dam.

“That's kind of one of the main mission impacts is getting people to see how awesome this Lower Saluda River is and the Three Rivers Greenway all the great work they've done with the river walks and being able to to get as many people out there, away from electronics, and moving and shaking and exploring our wonderful city cities,” Bray said.

Riverbanks is also making moves, having recently received an $80 million bond to fund extensive upgrades. The zoo reopened its aquarium and reptile conservation center last year after a $10 million effort, with subsequent plans in its Bridge to the Wild improvement plan set to add an immersive orangutan exhibit and an event space and restaurant with a large deck, both along the banks of the Saluda River.

PickleGarden also joins a bevy of recent activity related to the sport of pickleball. 

The release cites a report published by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association that shows pickleball participation has grown 158.6% over the last three years, making it the fastest-growing sport in the United States, with the South Atlantic region seeing the most growth.

And investment in the sport locally continues elsewhere. Multiple local recreation entities have added pickleball options in recent years, with several investing in pickleball-specific facilities. 24 Hour Pickleball, a new privately owned pickleball facility located along U.S. Highway 1 between Lexington and West Columbia offering around-the-clock play, is set to open in March.

picklegarden columbia, saluda riverwalk biergarten, riverbanks zoo, candi lane,


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here