East Hampton Village residents should wonder why precisely it is that the trustees are eager to install a specialized glass playing enclosure for a sport that no one has heard of — and take away a tennis court in the process. But then again, what passes for leadership in the village these days raises all sorts of questions.
Padel, apparently, is a racket sport in a glass box, which is supposed to keep a ball in play longer. The paddles are more akin to those used in Ping-Pong or Kadima, albeit perforated with holes. Wikipedia says that Padel is popular in Spain, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina. According to The Guardian, it gained players in Italy as one of the limited sports allowed during the Covid-19 pandemic. The game is supposed to be easy to learn and is said to be spreading rapidly.
Two women who enjoy the game themselves had approached village officials after learning that Herrick Park was to be redesigned beginning in the fall. The existing tennis courts have been neglected by the village and are slated to be removed during the renovation, they reasoned. One of them offered to pay the $70,000 installation cost herself. But what was missing from this was any indication that village taxpayers were interested in any of it. The women attended the May 20 village board meeting and took with them, by way of support, the general manager of a company that installs Padel courts. Sports pros would be available for lessons at the Herrick Park site — for a price?
What is unfortunate here is that the board seems willing to take away a known public asset — a tennis court — and replace it with something for which there is no discernible demand. Why? Who knows? There may be some back-room incentive or, more likely, it could just be another shiny object designed to deflect attention as the board continues gutting the village zoning code and rolling over for additional development.
Before jumping all in on Padel, the village should ask for a portable version in a less-prominent location as a demonstration of interest. If the game is a hit, only then should it be included in the plan for a renewed Herrick Park. Taking away a free, public court as the peak of the tennis season approaches makes no sense whatsoever. The village should repair the cracked surfaces and then sit on the sidelines for now and make a move on Padel only after there is obvious demand.