By Steve Plunkett

Indoor, air-conditioned courts for racquet sports could open to the public in Boca Raton by the end of 2024.

The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District chose a proposal on Sept. 11 for an almost 60,000-square-foot building at its recently renamed North Park — 5800 NW Second Ave. — to contain 14 indoor pickleball courts and four courts for padel, a cross between tennis and squash.

“Boca is in dire need of a climate-controlled, professional racquet sports facility so people can be able to escape our unpredictable weather … whether it’s rain or stifling heat,” said Dr. Stewart Davis, a physician, medical device entrepreneur and one of the partners of Boca Paddle LLC.

In addition to the indoor courts, Boca Paddle’s proposed structure would include a children’s play area, restrooms and locker rooms, a pro shop, sports bar, lounge and community room. Outside would be eight more pickleball courts and two more padel courts.

Davis’ “extremely well-capitalized” team projected that its proposal would cost just shy of $15 million, which Boca Paddle would pay.

“We’re doing this with all cash and no debt,” he said. “We have the cash secured in the bank and we’re ready to go with this project.”

In return, Boca Paddle wants a 49-year concession agreement with the district. The two sides are negotiating details of the deal.

Davis’ partners are Brian Levine, the former CEO of Major League Pickleball; developer Malcolm Butters and his philanthropist wife, Catherine; and Farmer’s Table restaurateur Mitch Robbins. All are residents of Boca Raton.

District commissioners ranked the Boca Paddle proposal better than four others, from entities named Camp Pickle, Chicken N’ Pickle, the Robbie Wagner Tournament Training Center and the YMCA of South Palm Beach County.

The Y was drawn to the request for proposals process by the lure of possibly free land for another YMCA site within the city.

“We’re full — in preschool, after school, summer camp — full. We need additional space to continue to grow and meet the needs of the community,” said Jason Hagensick, the organization’s president and CEO.

Commissioners made the Y their No. 2 choice and said they were amenable to letting it have another site at North Park, the 212-acre parcel surrounding the Boca Teeca condominium community that they bought in 2018 with the idea of making a golf course. It’s also known as Ocean Breeze, the name of the former golf course on the property.

In other business, commissioners:
• On Sept. 18 approved a 2023-24 tax rate of $1.08 per $1,000 of taxable value, the same millage as the previous year. The rate will generate $41.8 million in tax collections, up $4.4 million from 2022-23. The owner of a $1 million home will owe $1,080 in Beach and Park taxes.

The district will pay the city $27.6 million, down 3.3%, mostly to operate and maintain Red Reef Park and the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center and to supply staff at district facilities.

• On Sept. 5 said the public can still watch their meetings live online but can no longer speak to the meeting remotely after someone “Zoom-bombed” the Aug. 28 meeting with an inappropriate video. The district had to stop recording the video of the meeting that night to deny the hacker access.

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