For the first time in the U.S., the fast-paced European racquet game padel can be played by anyone interested on public courts. Located just northwest of Philadelphia on Venice Island in Manayunk, the PADELphia pop-up club, which debuted earlier this summer, consists of two outdoor courts and a pro shop.
Padel (pronounced pah-del) takes its inspiration from racquet sports like tennis, squash, racquetball and platform tennis. Rules of play are the same as tennis and the game is played in doubles pairings, though it requires solid racquets and balls specifically made for the sport.
“If you ever thought you couldn’t play a racquet sport, this is the prime example of where you can,” says All Racquet Courts USA President Scott Grote. “We have people that have never picked up a racquet and they’re out there just loving the game.”
What makes padel different from other racquet sports is how the turf courts are entirely enclosed with see-through glass walls. The tennis balls in play frequently bounce off of them since padel courts are a third of the size of a standard tennis court, allowing players to utilize the walls to their full advantage for swift back-and-forth action.
“It’s sort of a Swiss Army knife of racquet sports and combines a lot of elements of all of them into one easy to learn, easy to play package,” says Grote.
Padel was introduced locally when PADELphia’s founders, Grote and All Racquet Sports President Lee Sponaugle, brought it here after first being introduced to the game in the Bahamas.
The game has gathered interest internationally, with over 30,000 courts and an estimated 12 million players—nearly equally men and women—worldwide and is especially popular in Spain. Padel is currently played in 78 countries, including the U.S., but PADELphia is the first general public play court in the country, according to the club’s owners. “We want to see padel thrive and grow in the Philadelphia community for a long time to come,” says Grote.
These padel pop-up courts will remain in Manayunk until October, with plans to construct a permanent facility in the area in the future. The courts are open daily and available for general play on Wednesday and Thursday evenings for $10. Lessons and clinics are also available.