Pádel in the Beach?
During a City Commission meeting last March, the mayor enthusiastically suggested the parks department find a place for pádel in the Beach. He had just attended a tournament held at the Miami Beach home of his friend Wayne Boich, CEO of Ohio-based coal company Boich Companies. Boich likes the sport so much he had a court built in the backyard of his North Bay Road mansion, and he invited players from Europe to come play.
No one else on the City Commission knew much about pádel.
Flamingo Park was discussed, after which City Manager Jimmy Morales pointed out that residents in the Flamingo Park neighborhood have debated many of the finer details of the park’s master plan, so any possible changes should be thoroughly explained.
“The Flamingo Park master plan is one that is very sacred to a lot of folks out there,” he told commissioners. “And so we would need to go through the process of getting community input.”
Family of racquet sport players
On the other side of a chainlink fence where Monteagudo was prepping for his match, one wall paddleball players whacked a ball against the side of a building that houses two shuttered racquetball courts. The two courts along that wall are favored among paddleball and one wall handball players because they face west, so the sun is behind players in the mornings.
In New York, we talk about the courts at Flamingo Park Yaakov Pupko, a New York native who uses paddleball courts when in the Beach
These courts are on the exterior wall of the Robert C. Haas handball courts, named after a champion handball player who died in a car accident in 1964. Under the current proposal, the building would be demolished to make way for four pádel courts and eight new paddleball courts that will face north-south to avoid the sun getting in people’s eyes.
Today, the doors to the interior Haas courts are padlocked.
Even though the demolition was approved as part Flamingo Park’s master plan in 2009, handball players didn’t know that until the local neighborhood association asked the city to update residents on the master plan at a meeting last summer. It was during this presentation that, months after Levine first suggested introducing pádel, residents heard about the sport for the first time when new courts were considered for the master plan.
Kathaleen Smarsh, a member of the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association, said she and others were left wondering who had asked for pádel.
Neighbors have questioned the wisdom behind building new courts that would require management, which would have to either get contracted out, like with the tennis courts, or taken on by the city. And although handball attracts players from places like Pompano Beach and West Kendall, some say they don’t want pádel to attract more traffic from outside the Beach.
“It’s not a park that we’re looking to become a new attraction,” she said. “We don’t want this to become a destination park for people from other areas.”
$50,000 is the typical cost for building a pádel court
Some handball and racquetball players have organized to save the Haas building, citing a recommendation from the city’s Historic Preservation Board to retain the structure.
Levine and Miami Beach parks director John Rebar have discussed the issue with handball players, and a City Commission committee will consider the plan to add the pádel courts and where they should go at a meeting on Feb. 12.
Rebar told the Miami Herald there’s a possibility there can be a compromise where the Haas building stays and pádel is placed elsewhere. But that could upset other residents who refuse to see any green space eliminated from the park.
As of last week, his recommendation to demolish the Haas courts, build new a new wall for one wall players and build pádel courts has not changed.
“We see it as a great fit, to introduce [pádel], another racquet sport,” he said. “It’s a progressive move, being on the forefront to bringing this in.”
While pádel could turn out to be a passing fad, he said, it could also take off.
“Twenty-five years ago, you couldn’t find a soccer field in middle America,” he said.
This article includes comments from the Public Insight Network , an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with the Miami Herald and WLRN.