Community Builders -

The Blue Zone

The six owners of the Bridgeview Plaza, Rick and Michelle Beyer, Jim and Karen Christenson, and Todd and Deb Page, had a space to fill – a really large one. Their North La Crosse strip mall’s flagship store, Shopko, had been empty since 2019. The business partners knew they needed something to fill that 65,000-square-foot gap – what Deb calls, “the big, empty box.” Then they started to think, quite literally, outside of the box. 

From left: Brandon Jensen, Blue Zone Director, along with owners Todd Page, Deb Page, Michelle Beyer, Rick Beyer, Jim Christenson, and Kari Christianson. / All photos courtesy Blue Zone Pickleball

“We’re all very active and believe strongly that exercise improves health outcomes,” Deb says. “And we’re all pickleball players.” 

Pickleball, a combination of table tennis, badminton, and tennis, is the fastest-growing sport in the nation. Its open-play format, easy-to-learn rules, and adaptability for all ages and abilities has contributed to its huge growth in recent years.  

The couples hoped that the increased popularity of the sport and the size and space within the building would be a winning combination. They started researching, visiting several similar pickleball facilities and even attending a pickleball conference. They brought their ideas back to their space and got to work. 

Pickleball players enjoying the courts at The Blue Zone. / Courtesy photo

They started with the essentials, replacing all the HVAC and lighting, painting, and adding bathrooms. Then they added an office, a reception area, and a community gathering center, reworking the space to accommodate 17 regulation size pickleball courts and fencing, Deb says. The result was The Blue Zone – named for its notable blue courts – one of the largest indoor pickleball facilities in Wisconsin.

With a new plan for the “big, empty box,” the partners decided to keep the health and wellness business train rolling. They began work on a juice bar and bistro in the space next door to The Blue Zone that was previously the Shopko Pharmacy.

“The goal is for people to be able to watch pickleball while eating a healthy meal,” says Deb. “These two businesses are really all about encouraging eating healthy, connecting with friends, and exercising.”  

The new restaurant has obtained a liquor license, as well, and will be available to cater events in The Blue Zone’s community room, which is free to reserve.

The Blue Zone Community Room. / Courtesy photo

Promoting healthy living is something the group feels strongly about. “Some health insurances will now cover your court fees as a way to promote health and exercise,” Deb adds, encouraging potential pickleballers to explore this option. 

The Blue Zone has embraced the idea that pickleball is truly for everyone, experienced or not. You don’t even have to have your own gear, as they offer equipment rentals on site. “You can just rent a court and come and play,” says Deb. 

The facility has only been open since the end of February 2024 – they celebrated with a grand opening late March – but it has been filling up the events calendar steadily since. They already have several leagues in place and have hosted a handful of themed tournaments, and are offering some classes, too, for those new to the sport. 

Learn more: The Blue Zone offers online court reservations – to find an open play session, visit

 “Pickleball is a sport for all ages and abilities,” says Deb. “We hope The Blue Zone will help get families out and about, and ultimately, make La Crosse a better place to live.” 

All of The Blue Zone partners are lifelong residents of the La Crosse area, so improving their community is a mission close to their hearts. They are working to beautify the community with a planned facelift for the entire Bridgeview Plaza. Many of the facility’s employees are coaches and teachers in area districts and at local colleges, helping to connect even more community members to the facility. And Deb has started to see other area organizations reach out to learn more about partnering with Blue Zone to tap into the ever-growing phenomenon that is pickleball. 

 “The community has been very receptive to us,” Deb says. “It’s been absolutely amazing.” 

Headshot of Sara Walters

Sara Walters

Sara Walters is a writer, mom, and pickleball fan living in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She has been an Inspire(d) contributor since 2018.