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Move over, pickleball! A new racket sport is coming to San Francisco

A rendering shows the padel courts coming to the Embarcadero next month. | Source: Courtesy Park Padel

Padel courts are coming to San Francisco’s Embarcadero Plaza for a year starting next month to get people interested in the sport, which is growing in popularity worldwide.

Construction is expected to begin next week on the temporary courts in the plaza at the end of Market Street near the Ferry Building as part of a partnership between the city’s Recreation and Park Department and Park Padel, an athletic social club.

City officials say padel, described as a mix of tennis and squash, was invented in Mexico in the 1960s and is played on a court that is about a third the size of a tennis court and has glass walls, allowing players to hit the ball off multiple surfaces.

The sport’s popularity increased during the Covid pandemic—much like the somewhat similar sport of pickleball—and the women- and minority-owned business Park Padel is helping to bring it to the Bay Area.

Along with partnering with San Francisco on the temporary courts, the company plans to open a permanent, six-court indoor facility in South San Francisco next year.

The news follows the announcement by the University of the Pacific last month of a pickleball and padel complex set to be built at its Stockton campus later this year.

The Embarcadero Plaza courts in San Francisco will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. starting in October. The courts will be free from 2 to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays but must be booked in advance, while court fees for all other times are $40 per person per hour, or $28 for those with a monthly membership.

Once the courts are open, people will be able to book open courts at or on the Park Padel mobile app.

“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,” Mayor London Breed said 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.”