For two week now, numerous concerned inquiries have come into BocaWatch about ‘Patch Reef Park’ being sold to Rafael Nadal, the world’s number one clay court tennis star, for a private tennis academy.   BocaWatch has followed up on these inquiries to find out that the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District is not and has never considered such a ‘sale’.   Comments to this effect have been provided by both the Executive Director/Legal Counsel Art Koski and District Commissioner Steve Engel.  From their comments, the public can rest assure that no such ‘sale’ is being contemplated nor even possible.  Patch Reef Park is operated by the District on a long term lease from Palm Beach County.

However, that is not the end of the story.  BocaWatch reported weeks ago that the District has been in discussion with the Nadal Group about exploring their interest in collaborating with a public entity here in south Palm Beach County to bring a professional tennis learning center to the County.  “We (the District) are in discussions with the Nadal Group regarding the establishment of a tennis academy, but this will be only on a portion of the park property.  This property will stay in our hands and under our control.  Use of the academy’s facilities will be open to all District residents” responded District Commissioner Steve Engle.

Executive Director Art Koski added additional information.  Mr. Koski indicated that Rafael Nadal has expressed an interest in locating to south Florida, particularly Boca Raton, as a plan for his anticipated departure from world class tennis competition.  To this end, District representatives have met in preliminary discussions with Mr. Nadal’s agents and family members.   Mr. Nadal, a citizen of Spain, currently operates a tennis learning center in Majorca, Spain. (see Below)

With his Majorca facility as a model, Mr. Nadal proposes to present Boca Raton, with a world-class tourist attraction and economic development platform.  This business opportunity may be an attractive alternative opportunity for the District in its efforts to improve Patch Reef’s tennis facilities and community center while accommodating the bigger picture of world class tennis headed up by Mr. Nadal, arguably the world’s number one clay court tennis star.

Being explored is some sort of ‘public private partnership’ with the Nadal Group to design an ‘indoor facility’ accommodating up to four (4) clay courts; a facility that would be headed under the Nadal name as a tennis learning center while also being available to the public in general.  Details are not available as to how this interaction is implemented.  Discussions are in a very preliminary stage.

So, to reiterate, the rumor of Patch Reef Park being sold is not true.  The District is in discussions as reported above with the Nadal Group but no plans are finalized nor details available.

To that end, the District has placed this item on its agenda for discussion at their next scheduled meeting to be held at 5:15 P.M. on the first (1st) Monday in November.  The public is invited to attend this upcoming meeting.  BocaWatch will certainly be there.

HOWEVER…THERE IS A BIGGER ISSUE TO EXPLORE…

Perhaps one of the most visceral topics of concern to the general public in the recent past is the preservation and protection of Boca Raton’s parklands and waterfront.  Attempts to alter the public’s parklands have recently been contemplated at various levels of local government.  Examples abound reflecting this recent phenomena.

This article reports on the Beach and Park District’s exploration of a lease agreement for a portion of Patch Reef Park.  Another current example is found with elected officials at the school board and in the city of Boca Raton advancing arguments to take significant acreage from Sugar Sand Park to build a new school with athletic fields…And, the mother of them all was the Chamber of Commerce openly advocating the commercialization of all Boca Raton’s Intracoastal Waterfront parks, an effort that met with undeniable resistance with the voting public’s overwhelming victory  in the November 2016 referendum on recreational limitations for waterfront properties.

These topics are certainly subject for future commentary and articles but the preliminary lesson to be learned from them is that elected officials are elected as representatives of the people.  They are not modeled after Plato’s Philosopher-Kings, and when topics of such high emotion as our parks and recreation are in play, the public must be made aware of the possibilities at the earliest stage possible.  Elected officials should be heard to shout from the rooftops the possibilities that exist and the public should be invited in to comment and express their directional compass at the earliest stage of discussion.  Elected officials act at their own political peril when the public is left out of the equation.

That is politics 101….and to the elected ‘public servant’; elections are held far too often to forget who you actually serve….

As my third grade teacher would often be heard saying….”A word to the wise should be sufficient”