(Bloomberg) -- Soon, the sport of padel may no longer be living in the shadow of its more popular court cousin, pickleball, or its beloved older sister, tennis. Organizers of the Blockchain.com Miami Padel Open are hoping the racket game will gain shine at the event, which starts the World Padel Tour’s 2022 season. The tournament will begins on Feb. 22.
“Padel is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, particularly in Latin America where we have an increasingly large footprint of customers, partners, and employees,” says Peter Smith, the chief executive officer of Blockchain.com, which is sponsoring the event. Although padel is less known in the U.S., the market is catching up. Five new clubs have sprouted in Miami in as many years, and the game is attracting high-profile players, athletes, and celebrity investors such as soccer star David Beckham and former NBA champion Tony Parker, who founded the agency behind the French Padel Open.
Backers are hoping to pack VIP boxes in Miami’s Island Gardens with high-rolling fans. “We have the fortunate opportunity to sell a great number of luxury boxes to powerful individuals and high-level business groups that attract those luxury brands,” says Wayne Boich, the CEO of Boich Investment Group, which has licensed the Florida event this year. “Not to mention a lot of the CEOs of some of these businesses are also playing the sport.” He says the six-day event is meant to be a world-class experience with fine dining, concerts, and retail.The last time Miami hosted a padel tournament was in 2017—the only previous occasion in the U.S.—and it was on a much smaller scale. That event was held under different management at Lummus Park in Miami Beach over just four days with a total of about 2,400 people attending, say the current organizers. The current sponsors hope to reach a consumer base with a broad age range and high net worth.
Watchmaker Richard Mille is among the sponsors this year. “Many of our clients either have homes in the area or simply travel here often,” explains Laura Hughes, director of communications at the high-end Swiss brand. “Playing padel, either at a club or on their private court, is becoming a part of the lifestyle for the clients who like being active—and who may be a bit competitive, too. An alignment with a sport that is a close sibling to tennis makes sense for us and our watches.” Tennis and padel are scored the same way, with padel predominantly played by pairs. What sets padel apart from its biggest competitor, pickleball, is that the court is enclosed by four walls that can keep the ball in play.
There isn’t yet enough data yet to say exactly how many people are playing padel in the U.S. There are at least 120 residential and consumer courts, according to the U.S. Tennis Association. That contrasts with more than 4.2 million active pickleball players, according to the USA Pickleball Association. “Anyone watching pickleball who watches this upcoming tournament will quickly understand the difference between pickleball and padel,” Boich says.
Both the Miami Padel Open and the World Padel Tour will be broadcast globally on networks including France’s Canal+ and on YouTube. “I believe padel can definitely exceed the popularity of pickleball in the U.S.,” Boich adds. “We are confident that there soon will be multiple padel tournaments in other cities. ”
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