Another racket sport that isn't tennis and isn't pickleball which has gained broad popularity across the globe, padel, is going to be getting its own dedicated courts down at Embarcadero Plaza.
The plaza across from the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street that was formerly called Justin Herman Plaza will soon be home to two padel courts, as part of a one-year pop-up called Park Padel. Construction on the specialized padel courts is starting next week, and the padel games begin in October.
Padel courts are larger than pickleball courts and can't be adapted from regular tennis courts — glass or solid walls are a requirement for game play — and the rackets are smaller. Padel is considered more athletic than pickleball, as a result of the larger court and a faster-moving ball.
"San Francisco is a City that welcomes and celebrates all types of sports and activities, and we will continue to work hard to bring more attractions to our Downtown," says Mayor London Breed in a statement. "Adding these courts to Embarcadero Plaza is just one way our public spaces are evolving to meet dynamic new interests. This exciting new recreational opportunity will only add to the vibrancy of Embarcadero Plaza for our residents and visitors to enjoy."
This is the second activation of a downtown space for a sporting use that is happening this fall, as part of City Hall's broader effort to clean up the streets and bring more people downtown. Also under construction now are new ping-pong and Teqball areas in U.N. Plaza, along with a new skateboarding park there.
The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department says that Park Padel will be open for free gameplay from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with reservations required on the Park Padel app. Games at all other times will also require reservations, and will cost $40 per person per hour — $28/hour for seniors on weekdays. Memberships are also available, which will get you the $28/hour rate at all times.
Park Padel is a women- and minority-owned business launched by three friends, Jessica Talbert, Neil Chainani and Katie Lampert, who fell in love with padel while traveling in Spain. The sport, which was invented by a father and son in Acapulco in 1969, combines elements of tennis and squash — and unlike pickleball or tennis, it utilizes the side and back walls of the court for ricochets.
"Padel is an incredibly social sport and a great way to spend time with friends or coworkers," says Lampert. "We have no doubt it will become San Francisco's new favorite pastime."
Read all about the differences between pickleball and padel here.
"With interest in racket sports at an all-time high, we are thrilled to offer the first padel courts open to the public in Northern California," says Recreation and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg in a statement. "Our parks and plazas are about fun and connection, and these new courts will offer plenty of both."
Follow Park Padel on Instagram for updates.
Photo: Artur Kornakov