Published On: Thu, Feb 8th, 2024

 “One Small Step” For More Pickleball In Boca Raton

By Marci Shatzman

Boca Paddle is about to get the ball rolling to build a public indoor/outdoor pickleball center in North Park, part of the renamed former golf course in Boca Teeca.

“Our goal is to submit site plan approval around Feb. 19 to the city,” South Florida developer Malcolm Butters told Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District commissioners to update the timeline.

They’re expecting site plan approval by the end of the summer, a go-ahead to start construction “by this time next year,” and a January 2026 opening, he added.

The building is “the same shape and size,” he said, but they tweaked the plans commissioners approved in October. “We spent the last two months designing the inside and outside with a lot of green before we go to the city,” he said.

Butters and his team showed two architectural sketches on a screen, but said there’s no renderings yet of the two-story building with 22 courts, 14 of them indoors, bar and kitchen areas, locker rooms, and party and event spaces, some with glass walls overlooking the courts.

Erin Wright, the board’s chair and only commissioner with small children worried the plans aren’t “family-friendly enough.” In September, she voted for a popular commercial pickleball venue and restaurant among the five proposals the district considered, and she said so at Tuesday’s meeting. Other commissioners had misgivings, too. “Will the play areas be supervised?” asked Commissioner Steve Engel.

The key is to create programming that appeals to kids, so they don’t sit around glued to their computer screens waiting for their parents to finish their game, speakers said.

Butters and team members Brian Levine, former CEO of Major League Pickleball and pickleball instructor Stewart Davis assured commissioners, they had plenty of time to do that.

There were also concerns about exclusivity since the Beach and Park District charges members and nonmembers different fees for its parks and recreation programs and beaches.

They used the pickleball court costs at the district’s Patch Reef Park as models, Butters said. The district is also overhauling more pickleball courts at Patch Reef. 

“The project involves adding 18 covered courts and is now in the permitting stage. Currently, there are 12 pickleball courts at Patch Reef with the addition of the 18, that will make a total of 30 pickleball courts (18 of the 30 will be covered),” according to a district spokesperson.

The district bought the closed Ocean Breeze golf course on Boca Teeca in 2017 and is repurposing the acreage after the city accepted a different site for its new municipal golf course.

Butters reassured commissioners the new building wouldn’t be disruptive for residents used to a golf course view.

“The walls are over 40 feet high, so if you live in Boca Teeca you will just see a beautiful park and a building,” he said. “It will have decorative accents so it won’t just be a white box.”  

Butters also mentioned in passing that Boca Paddle has “moved on,” and replaced architect Juan Caycedo with HMN Architecture.

“Even though I am no longer the architect for the project, I think these types of recreational facilities are great for the city. They bring people together around sports and create a better sense of community,” Caycedo said in a separate interview. “The facility we had designed was designed with the city in mind, a simple yet iconic building that serves as a landmark for this section of the city. A building designed as a piece of art while also serving the intended function.”

The image is from the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District website. 

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