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A Meeting of Minds at the Directors Club Annual Retreat

A Meeting of Minds at the Directors Club Annual Retreat

Boca West, on the south-east coast of Florida. There can be few more luxurious country club locations in the United States than the one that played host to over 175 private club industry professionals last month.

The Directors Club 2024 was a gathering of the who’s who of our industry, and at a time of shifting sands in our industry. Now, shifting sands is not a phrase you would typically associate with the country club sector, yet that is what is now happening as the new racket sports of pickleball, and increasingly padel, start to change the country club landscape as we know it.

Now, some in the industry like to push the narrative that the ‘new guard’ of racket sports - the pickleballs, the padels, the POP tennis’, even - present a threat to the established world order of tennis, squash and racquetball, but that’s not a school of thought I prescribe to, as I stressed in my on-stage panel titled ‘Development and the future of Racket Sports’.

Photo credit: P-squared Padel / Unsplash.

On the flip side, I believe that these new racket sports (both of which we build courts for right across New England) can enhance, even breathe new life into, the traditional country clubs of America. If one thing is certain, it is not country clubs and sports clubs at large cannot rest on their laurels that they will always be there, that they will always be successful businesses. Complacency is not an option, and that is why all clubs need to look at whether building pickleball and padel courts alongside tennis and the traditional racket sports, can enhance their offering, giving members and players new reasons to play at their clubs. As discussed in Boca West, this does not need to be to the detriment of tennis, rather it can be a softly, softly approach whereby you build a couple of pickleball courts and a couple of padel courts without losing much land, or perhaps at worst, replacing one to two tennis courts. Put simply, a healthy balance can be struck.

Consider for a moment that a typical club could fit a pickleball and a padel court (adjacent to each other) on just half a tennis court. With both sports’ attractive participation statistics, this might well make economic sense for a country club needing to remain relevant to the modern-day member.

This multi-sport model is close to our hearts at Northeast Padel and our parent business Cape & Island, because we believe that when someone has a racket, or a paddle in hand, there is every chance they will try one of the other racket sports. Surely, that’s a win win scenario for our industry at large?

Another theme we explored in Boca West was the opportunity for private universities and colleges to start considering pickleball and padel within their facilities. Over the years of Cape & Island, we’ve been privileged to build tennis courts and running tracks for some of New England’s most prestigious institutions – both at the top boarding schools and universities. The schools and colleges are primarily educational institutions, yes, but they are also private sector businesses, seeking an edge over their competitors. For a sport such as padel which, all the statistics tell us is the fastest-growing worldwide, why wouldn’t you like to create your own USP on site by building for padel – a sport which is destined to join the Olympic Games perhaps as soon as Brisbane 2032.  

It is these questions of our time that we need to continue to ask, and challenge, so that the country club industry remains an industry that becomes as proud of innovation and transformation as it does of tradition.


By Eric Loftus, President of Northeast Padel. Based in Massachusetts, Eric Loftus is the President of leading padel court construction business, Northeast Padel. Eric is also VP of Northeast Padel’s sister company, Cape and Island Tennis & Track, which is the United States’ most award-winning tennis court and running track constructor, with over 48 distinguished facility awards from the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) and a status as the sole company nationwide to have won Racquet Sports Industry Magazine's National Builder of the Year twice (2002 & 2020). Since launching Northeast Padel, Eric has fast become one of the United States’ most prominent and respected voices in the burgeoning padel industry and is on a mission to ensure a quality-driven approach to court construction prevails as the sport grows across the United States. Photo credit: Oliver Sjöström / Unsplash.

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