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Pickleball thriving at the Oldsmar Flea Market

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

Pickleball players have been flocking to the Oldsmar Flea Market of late and it has nothing to do with hunting for bargains. They go there to — what else — play pickleball.

An air-conditioned building houses six indoor courts open for play seven days a week, 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Since a May opening, that facility has been home to Tampa Bay Pickleball, which consists of league play, open pickup, tournaments and even private court rentals with costs varying on programming.

Erin Brown hits a backhander in front of teammate Maria De Lima.

Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Pickleball

Turning an empty warehouse into a pickleball facility is the brainchild of local financial advisor Eric Klaus and his sons. Kennedy, 20, is a University of Alabama student and 16-year-old Ben attends Alonso High.

“My boys came up with the idea, found the warehouse and did all the legwork,” Klaus said. “I’m simply loving the opportunity to work side by side in showing them that anyone, with enough hard work and determination, can turn an idea into a successful business.”

Bill Gramatica and his wife Olga often play at the indoor courts. Bill, a former kicker for the Arizona Cardinals and University of South Florida, likes the family aspect of the newly opened business.

Angelo Peticone hits a ball over the net.

Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Pickleball

“I love pickleball and it’s really exploding, but pickleball is the second part of it,” he said. “It’s the fact that they’re working together.”

The DUPR Challenge for advanced 4.0-plus and intermediate 3.0-3.99 levels took place June 14-15. The best advanced records at 8-2 were turned in by two pairs — Jass Lessar and Justin Rudolph, along with Ryan Wierenga and Christopher King. Not far behind at 7-2 were Paula Rives and Kyler Pacyga.

Taking a break in between games are: (left to right) Erin Brown, Alfredo Mata and Maria De Lima.

Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Pickleball Not quite up to that top level are players like the Gramaticas. Olga plays regularly with a half-dozen women while Bill plays less often, usually paired with his wife. “Sometimes we plan on going for an hour, but the other day I was there for four hours,” Gramatica said, adding with a chuckle, “I couldn’t walk the next day.”

David Rosales returns the ball.

Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Pickleball Where Tampa Bay Pickleball goes from here is unknown at this point. If early turnouts are indicative, however, expansion could be in the works. “It’s awesome,” Gramatica said. “It’s clean. It’s brand new. Every time we’ve been there it’s packed, but you rotate pretty quickly.”

For now, Klaus simply is enjoying the early stages of what could turn into a fun and lucrative business for his sons.

“We feel we are on this really cool journey and are incredibly blessed to be able to meet so many awesome and passionate people along the way,” Klaus said.

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By Steve Lee

Times Total Media Correspondent

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