Bristol rockets up padel ladder
Together with Padel4All’s four covered court facility which launched last year, Bristol is now second only to London in padel provision, with a total of 35 courts (two of which are the UK’s only indoor singles courts, at Rocket Padel).
In terms of indoors courts, Bristol is leading the charge, with no other city getting close to its collective 29 all housed undercover (Rocket and Surge in former warehouses and We Are Padel in an ex-gym building).
It’s a massive coup for Bristol, attracting home-grown and overseas investment into the area and the prospect of international tournaments heading for the city, as happened when We Are Padel opened its 11-court indoor facility in Derby, which until Friday was the largest indoor centre in the country.
That title has now passed to Rocket Padel and its uber cool ‘Scandi chic’ centre in the St Anne’s area of the city. It’s the company’s first foray into the UK market, with more promised. The Swedish company, which operated a large number of courts there and in Norway, has reportedly divested all to concentrate on the UK, with an ambitious programme of up to 10 openings planned with the next likely to be London with nine indoor courts.
Carl-Henric Heimdal, one of Rocket Padel’s three co-founders (with Sebastien Gordon and Fredrik Kristensson) told The Bandeja that they’d been looking at opening in the UK for two years: “We’ve been looking all over the country. It is the combination of finding a city or place where you want to build and where you feel that you can bring something to the community,” he said. “Bristol is a great city and we want to enable the community to play so everyone from whatever age can come and join us, try the sport and get as passionate about it as we are.”
And he believes that competition between padel centres will be a positive: “A little bit of competition gets everyone to do a better job,” he said. “I see it as a really positive thing and I hope everybody does the same. There is going to be enough room for all of us and there is so much more that we need to build and do in the UK. The more people that play the sport the better it is.”
The Bandeja was there for Rocket Padel’s official opening on Friday (April 20th). The gorgeously appointed facility is based on the Swedish model, which seems essentially to mean the fusion of padel and lifestyle, with outstanding padel facilities paired with a cafe/bar, pro shop, spectator areas, changing facilities, juice bar, courtside work stations, seating/social spaces and conference room topped off with cool branding throughout.
The club is huge – the size of a football pitch – with a central corridor running down the centre for watching games and socialising. The building could have accommodated several more courts but Rocket is intent on providing high-end facilities with the all-important social space built in.
Friday saw exhibition matches, with GB internationals Nikhil Mohindra and Frankie Langan taking to the court. The Padel School was in attendance to cover the basics for those new to the game and a raft of influencers including Bradley Howard, Scott Thomas, Danny Simpson, Cameron Corp and Jack Cornish took to the courts, together with elite sportswomen Gail Emms (badminton), Sarah-Jane Perry (squash) and Claudia Frangapane (artistic gymnastics).
With a population of just over 700,000, Bristol has by far the highest number of padel courts per head of population (about 1:20,000). Even with the rapid rate that courts are appearing around the country, we feel that it will hold this title for some time to come. 🎾