Pickleball & More Pickleball Corbett’s

Downtown Venue Marries Food & Fun

By Steve Rivera

It took four years, a trip to San Antonio, Tex., and a roll of blue tape to realize the vision of Corbett’s, a place for food, fun and – well – pickleball all in one place at a downtown venue.

It’s been 25 years in the making for Scott Stiteler and partner Rudy Dabdoub, who purchased the stretch of land where the J. Knox Corbett Lumber and Hardware Company began in the 1930s.

Stiteler was thinking small – two, maybe three pickleball courts inside the historic Corbett building − until he went inside.

“I didn’t think they’d fit because they are bigger than what people think,” he said, of a pickleball court’s size.

“But we measured everything, putting blue tape down and they fit PERFECTLY,” Stiteler said with enthusiasm. “It was like in 1935 the Corbett family said, ‘One day pickleball is going to be popular, and we’ve got to make sure two will fit in the building.’”

It’s a marriage of the trendy recreational sport, with food, music, watching sports and more. There are also three outdoor courts, three cabanas, a stage for a band, a separate bar and a beer garden.

There is seating for 600 in the outdoor area and another 250 inside with 44 big screens throughout the space.

It all happens under the watchful eyes of Dennis Francis, known to locals as Papa Ranger, the late owner of the Twelve Tribes Reggae Shop. The shop space is now the spacious restaurant. A large mural of Francis is on the side of one of the structures.

“If there is a UA game it’s hard to beat,” Stiteler said. “You can explore on the property if you’re a 5-year-old or an 85-year-old.”

Corbett’s is located on a city block at 340 N. Sixth Avenue, stretching from Sixth Avenue to Fifth Avenue along Seventh Street, an area that was big enough for a lumber yard. 

“We’re happy how it turned out,” Stiteler said. “It’s a beautiful building. It pulls you in.”

Whether it’s to see a sporting event, have a meal, meet friends or play pickleball, there’s something for everyone.

“Pickleball seems to get the headlines, but sports are really important,” Stiteler said. “We’re building a crowd that comes there to eat and have a Coke or beer and not play pickleball. And that’s important.”

Restaurateur Regan Jasper, now a managing partner who hired the employees including Chef Omar Huerta and General Manager Kyle Morris, brought his flair for a successful food venue to the mix and has made it a must-get-to destination for the slice of American food, burgers, sandwiches, tacos and so much more. Entree names have a local flavor like the Lute ’97 sandwich, the Tucson Toro Burger, Bear Down Dip and Sidewinder salad.

“We wanted to capture everybody,” Jasper said of the wide variety of food choices. “We don’t want to be labeled a sports bar, but we do play in that lane.”

He said the idea was to have great food, with good service, good burgers and tacos, and to have a great brunch. We have a great short rib and salmon entrée. It’s chef driven. It feels like a restaurant rather than a sports bar.”

It’s one of the many reasons Morris came on board. He loved the concept, plays pickleball and knows the restaurant business.

“It’s so much fun,” Morris said. “It makes me want to play pickleball five days a week. I saw this and I said, ‘I have to be part of it.’”

No work and all play, Morris said.

“This is all play,” he said. “The restaurant business is fun, but when you combine this element with music and everything …”

So many have already come through, with about 4,000 customers already on the email list to play. First timers and experienced players are welcome.

“We have a lot of first timers wanting a safe place to learn instead of going to a park,” Morris said. “We provide all the equipment, and you can grab a drink and some food while playing.”

“Where else are you going to be able to hear great music and eat great food and play?” asked Caren Daniel, a frequent pickleball player who practices with her team at Corbett’s. “And they are awesome here. They just know how to treat people.”

Pictured above from left – Omar Huerta, Chef; Regan Jasper, Managing Partner; Kyle Morris, General Manager; Photo by Brent G. Mathis
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