NEW: Rafael Nadal’s tennis center in Boca is off the table — for now

BOCA RATON — A proposal to build a private tennis center associated with tennis champion Rafael Nadal at a public Boca Raton park is off the table after a wave of public criticism.

But it could return in a different form.

Nadal, ranked No. 1 in the world, pitched a facility with six indoor tennis courts, a restaurant, a rooftop terrace, sports shops and a gymnasium at Patch Reef Park, on Yamato Road near Military Trail.

The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, which owns and operates Patch Reef Park, decided to end negotiation with Nadal’s company at a meeting Monday. 

Instead, the park district will hire a consultant to study Patch Reef Park and its needs. If the study shows a need for indoor tennis courts and a private partnership, the park district would release a public request for proposals, which Nadal’s company could then respond to, along with other private businesses, said Arthur Koski, interim director of the park district.

About a dozen adults and children gathered outside the building where the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District met Monday. They held bright protest signs and chanted, “Save our parks.”

“We just do not want any commercialization of our parks at all,” said Michelle Laliberte, a Boca Raton resident who coordinated the demonstration to oppose the Nadal proposal. “I understand the value of an association with Nadal, but not at our public parks.”

Some of the district commissioners told The Palm Beach Post last week that the proposal was too large for the 55-acre Patch Reef Park, which has a community center, clay outdoor tennis courts and ball fields. 

“We were all kind of taken by surprise showing the magnitude of the Nadal center,” said Robert Rollins, chairman of the park district commission. “I think that while the project may deserve some consideration, we will listen intently to tennis community. Anything we do will have their support or we wont do it.”

This is an ongoing story. Check back for more updates.

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