There has been an explosion of interest in recent months about Padel Tennis. Some clubs have already taken the plunge, whilst many others are at the planning application and funding stage. It is not a new sport to the UK and there have been some false dawns before. There have been a very limited number of padel courts in the UK since the 1990’s.
But this time there is momentum to the growth in the sport in the UK with over 65 courts available, a number that is planned to double in a short space of time. Whilst some players were introduced to the game on holiday and have helped to introduce it to their clubs, British Padel was established as a governing body to promote the sport and establish competitions. This organisation has very recently been “adopted” by the LTA, under the new name LTA Padel, with the aim of increasing participation in all forms of tennis. It is seen as a means to retain existing players and provide an alternative and perhaps easier route into the sport for new players. The LTA are supporting installation of padel courts at clubs and parks, with interest free loans available to assist suitable projects to progress.
For anyone considering a padel court, here are a few points to note:-
Padel courts are always 20 metres long and 10 metres wide (available playing area bounded by the court enclosure). Most have a 2 metre panel width for the structure, so 5 panels at each end and 10 down each long side.
The enclosure comprises a total of 100 square metres of solid surfaces from which a rebounding ball may be returned and ball retaining mesh surfaces of prescribed dimensions. Most courts being installed now use 10 or preferable 12mm thick tempered glass for the solid surfaces and wire mesh panels in a structural steel frame to complete the enclosure which is 4 metres high at each end stepping down to 3 metres on the long sides (although a constant height of 4 metres is an acceptable alternative). The glass at each end can be installed with gaskets between adjacent glass panels to provide an unobstructed 10 x 3 metre “panoramic” glass end.
Access to the court is made in the middle of each long side and there is an option in the rules for players to exit the court to return a ball that is still in play and return quickly back onto the court provided that there is sufficient space and player safety to allow. Not all courts will have this feature and it is one most likely to be used at the more elite level of the game.
Space will be needed around the court for access, to allow the structure to be maintained and the glass cleaned. Space for spectators is also a benefit.
Outdoor courts can be covered by a canopy roof provided it is set at a height that does not restrict play- 8 metres over the centre of the court is recommended, perhaps dropping down
to 6 metres at the edges, the same height as that required for mounting four or eight LED floodlights producing a minimum 300 lux and a uniformity of not less than 0.5 to the full area.
Whilst only one third the area of a minimum LTA sized tennis court, extra space will be required to fit more than one padel court on an existing tennis court, but three padel courts can replace a block of two tennis courts if clubs do not have sufficient space to build currently unused ground.
The outdoor structures currently being installed are mainly from Europe and are bolted down to concrete foundations with porous asphalt as the base for the red, green or blue artificial grass playing surface. It is important that the foundations are designed by a structural engineer to suit local ground conditions and UK wind criteria, which will be different from other European areas. Corrosion protection standards will be another consideration in the UK climate. With the recent involvement of the LTA, guidance is being finalised on the technical issues that anyone contemplating installing a padel court should be factoring in to the project planning and budgeting.
As with any new development, it is good to talk with others who have already gone through the learning curve and have good construction project experience in the UK to avoid potential pitfalls.
Tim Freeman, SAPCA Tennis Chairman