Padel Courts Near Miami River Delayed Over Boat Slip Debate

September 10, 2023

Picture this: a former tennis pro, Patricio Hernandez-Pons, and his partner, Fernando Alarcon, are all geared up to turn a spot near the Miami River into a swanky padel haven with nine courts and a clubhouse that dishes out delicious bites and drinks. But, hold your horses, folks, because there’s a twist! 

This prime piece of land at 600 Northwest Seventh Avenue is right along the Seybold Canal, a stone’s throw away from the Miami River. The only hiccup? No boat slips in the plan. So, when the Miami River Commission convened on Monday, they hit the pause button on this padel project. The board decided to give it another shot and will vote again on October 2nd. 

Now, you might wonder, “What’s the big deal with boat slips?” Well, T. Spencer Crowley III, a board member, had an answer: “It’s a marine property. Obviously, your [padel facility] isn’t marine. You can’t just not have access to the water.” 

Hernandez-Pons and Alarcon are leasing the site and are asking the city’s blessing to run the facility temporarily as padel courts. They want a temporary use permit that could last up to seven years, allowing those towering 10-foot-plus padel court fences. But here’s the kicker – the site had boat slips in the past, but the marine operating permit (MOP) for docking expired. 

Crowley, who knows a thing or two about land use and development, emphasized that the longer it takes to get that marine use back, the tougher it becomes. He’s got a point; the marine industry is a big deal for the city, not just in terms of money but also as a local job source. 

Hernandez-Pons and Alarcon have their lease, but boat slips aren’t part of the deal. So, what’s the plan now? They say they’ll chat with the property owners to try and bring back those boat dockage spots. 

This isn’t the first time the Miami River Commission has hit the pause button on this project. They delayed the vote back in July, asking the padel duo to get the thumbs-up from nearby Spring Garden neighborhood residents. The catch this time? The commission wasn’t thrilled with the document that showed residents’ signatures; it didn’t spell out exactly what they were okay with.

As for South Florida’s padel scene, it’s booming! The sport, with roots in Mexico, is different from tennis but gaining popularity fast. At SoLé Mia in North Miami, Boich Investment Group is cooking up a padel paradise with 10 courts and two pickleball courts. Plus, Pādel Nuestro, a Spanish padel gear retailer, is getting ready to open its first U.S. store in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. 

So, while we wait to see if this padel project by the Miami River gets the green light, one thing’s for sure – the padel craze in South Florida is in full swing! 

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