Racket sport phenomenon ‘Padel’ secures prime location
at Europe’s largest retail and leisure destination
The largest retail venue in Europe will soon be home to one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, as the padel phenomenon comes to Westfield London.
Westfield has agreed a 10-year lease deal with Game4Padel, the company behind a UK-wide network of playing facilities for padel, the tennis/squash hybrid game that already boasts six million players in Spain and is rapidly gaining popularity across the UK, continental Europe and the rest of the world.
Game4Padel, which counts Sir Andy Murray among its investors, plans to build three permanent padel courts – two covered and one open show court – at Westfield London, which had a pre-Covid annual footfall of around 31 million people. Subject to planning, the three courts could be open in time for Christmas this year.
The deal also includes Game4Padel installing two additional ‘pop-up’ padel courts, one to coincide with the launch of padel in The Atrium, the main indoor event and entertainment space with pre-Covid footfall of 750,000 people each week, and one next summer at Westfield Square, the outdoor event space which is surrounded by restaurants and leisure outlets.
Padel is a form of tennis that is fun, easy to play, and sociable given that it is played with four players in a glass-enclosed court about one-third of the size of a tennis court. The rules are broadly similar to tennis – although players serve underarm, making it easier to play – and the walls are used as part of the game. It can be played in groups of mixed ages and abilities, as tactics and subtlety are as important as power.
In addition to former tennis world number one siblings Sir Andy Murray and Jamie Murray, other celebrity padel devotees include Rafael Nadal, David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Maria Sharapova, Martina Hingis, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola. There are currently 100 courts around Britain, but the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), which is the governing body for padel in the UK, has forecast 400% growth in the number of courts by 2023.
Game4Padel already operates more padel venues than any other UK provider and plans to be the dominant player in the fastest growing sport in the country. The agreement with Westfield London is Game4Padel’s first with a retail and leisure operator and the company will ensure access to the courts will be easy to arrange by operating a user-friendly online booking and payment system. The company is also in advanced discussions with more than 30 other sites – two of which are major retail centres in other large British cities – which it anticipates will add more than 50 additional courts to its existing five venues.
Game4Padel boasts a diverse group of experienced UK investors, alongside company ambassadors and sports broadcasters Annabel Croft and Andrew Castle, the former British no.1 tennis players, and Jonathan Davies, the Welsh rugby legend. The company’s chief executive is Michael Gradon, a former longstanding commercial and finance chair of the Wimbledon Championships, and its chairman is Jim McMahon, a founding partner of the investment business, West Coast Capital, and chairman of Motherwell FC.
Michael Gradon, Co-founder and Chief Executive of Game4Padel, said: “We see huge potential for padel facilities in premium UK leisure and retail developments so to have signed this deal with Europe’s biggest and best shopping destination is a real boost.
“The explosive growth of padel around the world gives us great confidence in its prospects here in the UK. It is an incredibly fun and addictive game that is easy for beginners to pick-up quickly, so the more people who start to see facilities like this one opening all around the country, the faster it will grow and the more people will have the chance to experience the physical and mental health benefits associated with this kind of activity.”
Westfield London is the UK’s leading retail, leisure and destination. A £600 million expansion in 2018, a decade after it opened, made the centre the largest retail destination in Europe, with a 236,000 square metre footprint. Westfield London houses retail outlets ranging across luxury, premium and high street retailers. The centre is home to nearly 470 shops, anchored by four major department stores – including John Lewis & Partners – with more than 40 luxury retail brands and 80 eating concepts also on site. Entertainment and leisure is an important part of Westfield London. It was the first centre in the UK to create a major events space, The Atrium, which has hosted world movie premiers and international music performances. The expansion in 2018 also added a new two-acre, outdoor events space, Westfield Square, and Exhibition, a 3,000-capacity entertainment venue house in a Grade II listed building.
Kate Orwin, Leasing Director UK, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield said: “Our recent report, How We Shop: What’s Changed, identified the ‘experience tipping point’, where experience would overtake product in terms of floor space at shopping destinations by 2025. We have also seen the rise in health and wellbeing and physical activations within our retail and brand mix as shoppers crave new experiences. Westfield London is constantly transforming through introducing new concepts and we are thrilled to bring the exciting sport of padel to our visitors and to those who live and work in our local communities. The pop-up experiences will be a fantastic advertisement for the permanent courts which launch later this year and we look forward to welcoming Game4Padel to the centre.”
Game4Padel offers to partner with every type of venue, including sports clubs, leisure centres, parks, schools, universities and, increasingly, commercial venues. Its capital and technical expertise enables it to finance, install, maintain and operate padel courts in any setting. The company also creates bespoke coaching and playing programmes, events, tournaments, and engagement activities for children and schools.