Fast-growing sport padel finds South Florida home in downtown Miami

Picture this: Getting a brisk workout by playing a hip new sport with a clear view of Miami’s brilliant skyline … while drinks and snacks await you steps away.

That’s been the vision of the Padel X ownership group — led by CEO Juan Pablo Leria and co-founder Nalle Grinda — who have made a $10 million wager of sorts.

The bet is that padel — which is kind of a combination of tennis and racquetball — will continue to grow in the United States. It is already wildly popular in countries like Spain and Argentina.

That’s why Leria and his associates have invested that $10 million sum to open three padel clubs. Their first club opened last week in downtown Miami at 141 NE 13 Terrace. The Boca Raton and West Palm Beach clubs are a few months away.

Miami’s 10 courts are outdoors. Boca will have eight courts, all indoor, and there are seven outdoor courts planned for Palm Beach.

“We believe the Padel Revolution in the U.S. is here to stay,” said Leria, a native of Spain. “We think there will an explosive growth in the next couple of years.

“Padel X is a new brand. It’s a dynamic name. Up to now, padel has been a rather informal industry. We intend to professionalize the sport, and that’s why we chose our name. We want to elevate padel to the Power of X.”

Leria said the goal is to open 30 Padel X clubs throughout the United States during the next five years.

Grinda, who is also Padel X’s chief director of sport, is a 47-year-old native of France who played for the French national padel team.

He played pro padel from 2004 to 2010. In 2010, he quit his pro career and moved to Miami to work in real estate.

Even so, he couldn’t forget about his passion for padel.

“There was no padel in Miami at the time,” Grinda said. “I started building a few courts, introducing the sport to my friends on the beach. We kept on inviting people to play, and they got the virus.”

When the Miami Padel Open was held here in 2022, that’s when Grinda and Leria came up with the idea for Padel X.

“This [padel] is happening now in the U.S., but it’s been happening in Europe and Latin America for the past 30 years,” Grinda said. “The sport is growing like an epidemic. It’s huge in most of Europe — Italy, France, Spain, Sweden, Norway, everywhere.”

Among the sport’s enthusiasts are soccer superstar Lionel Messi, French President Emmanuel Macron and tennis champ Rafael Nadal.

Worldwide, padel is growing exponentially as it was included in the 2023 European Games.

The next step is the Olympics. There are now more than 75 padel federations throughout the world, which was the last barrier the sport needed to exceed for possible inclusion in the 2032 Summer Games in Brisbane, Australia.

In total, there are an estimated 25 million padel players in 110 countries. The game is most popular in Spain, with 3.7 million players. Argentina is next with 2.1 million players.

According to historians, padel was invented in Mexico in 1969 by Enrique Corcuera, who modified his tennis court to come up with this sport.

Padel uses the same scoring system as tennis and a similar ball. But there’s a paddle and not a racquet, and you can hit the ball off the side fencing or the back walls.

Also, the ball must be served on the bounce at or below the waist, and the court itself is enclosed with tempered glass walls on each end, and there’s artificial turf instead of concrete.

Padel X, the brand established by Leria and Grinda, promises to be innovative in various ways.

“For example, we will recycle all the padel balls and water bottles,” Leria said. “With that, we will produce all the merchandise and furniture in our clubs.

“Our goal is to have a strong and positive social impact for our community.”