, 2023-04-29 07:01:41,
Gravel crunches beneath Steve Kuhn’s black-and-white sneakers as he strides across the parking lot of his sprawling 86-acre dominion 20 miles southwest of Austin. Here at Dreamland, you’ll find multiple mini-golf courses, disc golf, two outdoor live music stages, psychedelic art installations, a bar, and 16 courts dedicated to the fastest growing sport in America: pickleball. Teeming with whimsy and chill vibes, it’s an unusual place to find a Minnesota native and Harvard graduate who raked in a billion-dollar fortune on Wall Street before a lobbying stint in Washington, D.C. But, somehow, it tracks for Kuhn.
Clad in a pickleball hoodie and a matching red, white, and blue cap that proclaims “Pickleball will save America,” he’s unabashedly invested in his latest gambit. Wearing a steadfast almost-smile, it’s an expression that bears a wide-eyed optimism that might be mistaken for naïveté… if his track record didn’t prove that he could excel in some of the toughest rooms in the world. In fact, Kuhn is so pervasively good-natured that it might inspire skepticism. Like Ned Flanders, if Homer’s pious neighbor had the business acumen and foresight of Steve Jobs.
Kuhn is fond of referencing a quote typically attributed to Robert F. Kennedy, although it was originally lifted from Back to Methuselah, a play by George Bernard Shaw: Some men see things as they are and say, why? I dream things that never were and say, why not? It sounds grandiose, but it does a good job of encapsulating the ethos that has guided the entrepreneur through his multifarious career.
Originally, the site of Dreamland was purchased by Kuhn simply as a 9-acre property to house the production facility for Richard’s Rainwater, the bottled water company that Kuhn invested in heavily (and still holds the largest ownership stake) in 2017. Eventually, the operation outgrew those digs, and the tract sat dormant until the would-be sports tycoon expanded its footprint by a magnitude of 10 and constructed the pickleball mecca that exists today.
It’s a chilly afternoon in late winter, and Kuhn has invited some buddies from his running group to check out his expansive playland. The cadre of retired men has gathered around Dreamland’s bar, and their ringmaster leaps behind the counter to pull a few drafts of foamy beer. “I think you’ve really got a tiger by the tail with this pickleball thing,” jests one of his running mates.
As co-founder of Major…
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