Padel courts are coming to San Francisco’s Embarcadero Plaza for a year starting next month to get people interested in the sport, which is growing in popularity worldwide, city officials announced Wednesday.

Construction is expected to begin next week on the temporary courts in the plaza at the end of Market Street near the Ferry Building as part of a partnership between the city’s Recreation and Park Department and Park Padel, an athletic social club.

Padel rackets and balls are shown. Padel, which has been around since the 1960s, is described as a hybrid of tennis and squash, and is played on a court enclosed by glass walls. Instead of strings, the rackets are mostly solid except for air holes. (Anton Gustafsson/Flickr, CC BY)

City officials say padel, described as a mix of tennis and squash, was invented in Mexico in the 1960s and is played on a court that is about a third the size of a tennis court and has glass walls, allowing players to hit the ball off multiple surfaces.

The sport’s popularity increased during the COVID-19 pandemic like the somewhat similar sport of pickleball, and the women and minority-owned business Park Padel is helping to bring it to the Bay Area. Along with partnering with San Francisco on the temporary courts, the company plans to open a permanent, six-court indoor facility in South San Francisco next year.

The news follows the announcement by the University of the Pacific last month of a pickleball and padel complex set to be built at their Stockton campus later this year.

The Embarcadero Plaza courts in San Francisco will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. starting in October. The courts will be free from 2-4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays but must be booked in advance, while court fees for all other times are $40 per person per hour, or $28 for those with a monthly membership.

A rendering shows the design for temporary padel courts that are coming to San Francisco’s Embarcadero Plaza in October 2023. (San Francisco Recreation and Park Department via Bay City News)

Once the courts are open, people will be able to book open courts at the Park Padel website or on its mobile app.

“San Francisco is a city that welcomes and celebrates all types of sports and activities, and we will continue to work hard to bring more attractions to our downtown,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “Adding these courts to Embarcadero Plaza is just one way our public spaces are evolving to meet dynamic new interests. This exciting new recreational opportunity will only add to the vibrancy of Embarcadero Plaza for our residents and visitors to enjoy.”

Dan McMenamin is the managing editor at Bay City News, directing daily news coverage of the 12-county greater Bay Area. He has worked for BCN since 2008 and has been managing editor since 2014 after previously serving as BCN’s San Francisco bureau reporter. A UC Davis graduate, he came to BCN after working for a newspaper and nonprofit in the Davis area. He handles staffing, including coaching of our interns, day-to-day coverage decisions and management of the newswire.