Padel: New courts bring fast-growing new sport to Edinburgh business park for first time

A group of sports-minded entrepreneurs have come up with a scheme which aims to prove that business and pleasure can successfully mix. And the launch took place this week in Edinburgh.

Annabel Croft, former Wimbledon junior champion, cut the celebratory ribbon
Annabel Croft, former Wimbledon junior champion, cut the celebratory ribbon

Two padel courts were officially opened in Edinburgh Park, surrounded by offices and with easy tram access. “We like to think this is a unique project based on taking sport to the people in a business area as opposed to further developing traditional sports clubs” says Jim McMahon, executive chairman and co-founder of the Game4Padel company, who is also chairman of Motherwell Football Club.

He added: “The way business operates has had to change. At the same time as accepting the hybrid model involving working more from home it will encourage staff back into the workplace.”

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Padel is widely regarded as one of the UK’s fastest growing sports, a combination of tennis and squash on a box-like court. A one hour session can rapidly stimulate fitness but in a way that is both social and competitive. The aim of the Edinburgh Park courts, which are operated remotely with electronic gate access, is to provide opportunities before and after the working day as well during workers down-time. When players book on-line they receive an access code.

Pictured at the opening are, left to right: Alastair Gordon (Game4Padel), Colin Fleming, Michael Gradon, Annabel Croft, Peter Gordon, Vincent Hivert, Jim McMahon. Picture: Andy Mather

Michael Gradon, CEO of Game4Padel and a senior Team GB internationalist, says: “This is the first business location I have ever played in but we are also now seeing interest from a number of shopping centres promoted not by potential extra footfall but by their wanting to embrace the community aspect. Alongside this traditional tennis clubs are increasingly liking padel as a means of re-generation.”

The far-sighted nature of the development is emphasised by Vincent Hivert, a former French junior internationalist who is the company’s growth and participation director.

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“Some 1,800 homes are planned in the next phase of development but for now the courts are in the middle of a business park which offers a new challenge in marketing to different people but this also gives us the chance to prove that padel is for everyone" he told the Game4Padel web-site. “(So) It is imagined to be a place to live, work, play with homes, business and facilities set within a landscaped park of social spaces. We have a chance to attract people who have played other sports and perhaps even some with no sporting background.”

An existing Edinburgh venue is at Thistle tennis club, Paties Road, where padel owner Peter Gordon says: “There are now 400 tennis members whereas before padel was introduced there were around 75 adults. The visibility of padel (250 members) has undoubtedly helped.

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With three other venues in and around Edinburgh and others in the pipeline including Grange Sports Club, Craigmillar Park tennis club and possibly also Ocean Terminal Gordon is ready to help set-up inter-club leagues along the lines of tennis. “Edinburgh really is a padel hotspot and I can certainly see this happening very soon” he says.

Two high profile tennis figures attended the launch – Annabel Croft and Colin Fleming. Annabel, former Wimbledon junior champion, cut the celebratory ribbon and said: “Every time I play this game I am always smiling and I’m blown away by the (Edinburgh Park) site.”

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Fleming, ex Davis Cupper who is now Scotland’s national coach, said of a sport played in doubles format. “Padel is easy, fun and quick to pick up. There’s not as much starting and stopping as tennis and the court is smaller so it allows for more back and forth with your team-mate and opponents.”