Published On: Wed, Apr 3rd, 2024

Update On Two Boca Pickleball Sites

By Marci Shatzman

City staff, not an outside vendor, will continue to run expanded pickleball courts, the pro shop, camps, leagues, instruction, tournaments, parties and special events in Patch Reef Park.

And Boca Paddle, the group planning to build and operate the new public pickleball center in North Park, will revisit their legal agreement to see if they can adjust their fees to be more affordable.

The Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District, working with the city, oversees both pickleball sites and had to grapple with both issues at their April 1 meeting.

District commissioners approved a motion to keep city staff on board at Patch Reef Pickleball, instead of considering outside pickleball companies that responded to a request for proposal (RFP). 

That move gave the go-ahead to expand Patch Reef pickleball courts to 18 covered, 12 uncovered and three junior courts, plus more services and programming in the district’s Patch Reef Park. Patch Reef now has 12 lighted courts with three more set aside for clinics and lessons.

After a detailed presentation of current and expected needs by recreation services superintendent Ryan Reckley, district commissioners were all impressed, particularly for plans for players with permanent or temporary special needs. Commissioners also agreed with the current fee schedule. “We’re blown away,” said Commissioner Bob Rollins. You have a huge job in front of you. We’re expecting it to be successful.”

After Boca Paddle’s routine update by Malcolm Butters and Brian Davis, commissioners took exception to the proposed fee schedule for working people in the community, following chair Erin Wright’s lead. “So people who work 9-to-5 can only come three times a year,” she said. “This is public land and I can’t get beyond that with this project the majority of our residents” won’t be able to afford to use the facility.

Butters conceded the point, but reminded commissioners that Boca Paddle is putting $16 million into the proposed facility and will have continuing expenses as operators.

After considering options such as extending court hours for community access, he agreed to explore the concession agreement to see if there’s a way to structure it to allow moderating the fees.

“This is not a lease and there’s no ownership interest in real property the district owns,” Jacob Horowitz, the district’s deputy general counsel explained later. “They build and operate the facility and the district will receive a concession.” This will be the district’s first concession agreement, he said.

Butters said Boca Paddle is still on track for city permitting for the new pickleball center proposed for a corner of North Park. North Park is the name for the former golf course in Boca Teeca that the district bought and is being redeveloped by the consulting firm Miller Legg. 

“We hope the city will look at this as one project, so we’re hoping we can both get onto a summer agenda,” Butters said. “Our goal is to work through the concession agreement and start construction in January.”

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