Diving Deep on Padel’s Spectacular Growth at The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami
A great deal has happened since the grand opening of three padel courts at The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami in January of 2020. Between the COVID-19 pandemic that set in soon after, to the major uptick in tennis, pickleball and padel participation as people sought out safer outdoor activities amidst the shutdown, the racquet sports landscape has evolved significantly in less than two years.
This isn’t to say racquet sports, and padel in particular, were not already on the rise. By the end of 2019, Miami had established itself as the no. 1 American city for padel – a sport which was already extremely popular in Europe and South America, and was starting to gain momentum throughout the rest of the United States. Flash forward to present day and there are roughly 8 million padel players worldwide, with an average of 250,000 new players annually.
As Cliff Drysdale Management’s flagship padel facility (and the first padel courts on Key Biscayne), there were certainly moments of trial and error in the early stages of opening. “Since we didn’t know where to go at the beginning, we offered a little bit of everything to everybody,” shared Ximena Trujillo, Padel and Pro Shop/Membership Manager at The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami. “We started with different levels of clinics for beginner, intermediate and advanced players. Little by little, we started focusing on what was most successful – mixers, different types of tournaments and a lot of programming.”
This magic formula has since stuck. In February of 2021, The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami hosted a United States Padel Association national tournament. Despite being the first event of its kind at the Cliff Drysdale Tennis-managed facility, it was a rousing success with 120 players competing across four divisions. Other notable events of the year have included the first ever Key Biscayne Padel Cup, the first Miami Bull Padel Cup, as well as brand-new mixers and leagues.
To put Padel’s popularity into perspective, if a player wants to book one of the three courts, they have to plan ahead. “People are typically booking fourteen days in advance,” Ximena remarked casually, as if two weeks is the norm for booking a racquet court.
But in Key Biscayne, this is the new normal, and the team is already looking at ways to add in more courts. Between junior programming, adult lessons, guest use and a plethora of social events and tournaments in between, there is rarely a time in the day that the courts are not in use.
High demand aside, a natural concern is, of course, how this sport’s arrival has impacted tennis at the facility. Would padel simply cannibalize the already successful tennis program?
“Not at all,” Ximena revealed. “We have a lot of clients that will come for one and also play the other, so it’s really just added on to what we already have.”
North of Miami, these results have been an inspiration for Weston Racquet Club, another tennis-turned-racquet facility that kicked off 2021 with four new pickleball courts and two new padel courts. New programming will feature a variety of introductory clinics to ensure current players and tennis devotees have plenty of resources to dive into the new sports.
“With the support of our partners, Cliff Drysdale Tennis has embraced the current racquet sports movement and invested in it by building padel and pickleball courts at many of our locations,” adds Scott McCulloch, Vice President of Operations at Cliff Drysdale Tennis. “We have found that embracing these sports alongside our traditional tennis clubs has only helped us to grow and offer more value to current and future customers.”
And this observation is true- the results speak for themselves.