Two college friends are teaming up to launch a new sports club in Houston with the goal of creating community and introducing people to a lesser known sport that founders said could soon take off.

The new club, called Tempo Padel and Pickleball Club, is being launched by Heights resident and Venezuelan native Leonardo Penuela and his college friend Tomas Rodriguez. In addition to offering courts that cater to the growing popularity of pickleball, the founders said they also want to introduce people to padel, a unique racquet sport that they said allows for more challenge and strategy.

Both Penuela and Rodriguez, as well as recently hired general manager Alan Jallah, said they are passionate about padel and want to bring it to a broader audience.

The breakdown

Padel is a game played using a racquet and has some similarities to pickleball. The Tempo founders described padel as more challenging than pickleball but easier than tennis.

Padel is played on a larger court and with faster balls than pickleball, using rules that are similar to tennis. The game is typically played in pairs, or "doubles," using smaller racquets and balls that are similar to tennis balls but with 30% less pressure. Players can use the court's walls to take shots and return balls.

The details

Tempo will be located at 1729 Brittmoore Road, Ste. A, Houston, just north of CityCentre near the Beltway 8 and I-10 intersection. The venue features eight courts in total, four each for padel and pickleball.

Padel courts at Tempo were built with a "super panoramic" design, Rodriguez said, meaning the courts are located within all-glass domains with no columns, giving audience members an unobstructed view.

Digging in

Tempo also features a tournament court for both padel and pickleball, a bar area and pro shop that will sell gear and provide rentals, which Rodriguez said will be helpful for new players in particular. Rodriguez said there are three pillars that make up the core mission Tempo will provide: recreation, wellness and community.

"We feel like in today's world, where everything is so connected online, we like to have time to connect in person, in reality," he said. "We believe that [padel] is very social. You get those three dopamine hits: wellness, play and recreation, and connection and community."

The situation

Although pickleball courts are springing up at various venues, the places in the city of Houston where people can play padel are harder to come by, Penuela said. Two outdoor courts can be found in the Houstonian hotel on North Post Oak Lane, and two more can be found at the iPadel Houston facility in the Near Northside.

Penuela said his goal with Tempo is to provide players with a more club-like setting, with amenities and a sense of community among the members and guests who stop by to play.

Zooming out

Padel is mostly known internationally, but Penuela and Rodriguez said they are seeing growing interest in the U.S. over the past two years that they've been planning to launch Tempo. Penuela said he thinks many people who join the club for pickleball will fall in love with padel as well.

"People who have never seen these courts will see them," he said. "They'll think, 'I love pickleball, but what is this?' and want to come check it out."

What readers should know

Prior to the grand opening, Tempo officials are offering a "Founder's membership" offer that includes unlimited pickleball and eight padel games per month for $99 in addition to discounts at the pro shop, booking priority and four heat and cold recovery sessions.

Those interested in playing can rent a court to play on as a group, but the venue will also host open play periods, tournaments, clinics, personal lessons and league play.

Each user will have an account with the venue's booking system that will include a profile and ranking. Accounts can be used to reserve a court and leave spots open for others to join, Penuela said.

"We'll have ongoing leagues to promote community, and ... if people come in and don’t have a group to play, we'll make sure you can find a group to play with," he said. "We don’t want the stopper of you playing to be that you need to find a group."

A hybrid membership option will be available at a lower cost of $39 per month and will cater to people who aren't able to come as regularly. Nonmembers will also be able to reserve courts.

What's next

A grand opening for Tempo is slated for May, though officials said they are still planning the event, which could feature music and exhibition matches with high-level players. By the end of May, Penuela said he hopes to be hosting local tournaments. A major tournament will take place in September with a $10,000 prize, he said.

The group is looking for sponsors and companies that are interested in having logos incorporated into the site, including on the court glass, Penuela said. Interested sponsors can reach out to [email protected].

"The main thing is to grow the sport," he said. "The second thing is to add value to our clients, to the community, to be fitter, happier and make connections."