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The residents at Valencia Reserve in Boynton Beach have set a standard of excellence for athletics in active adult communities in Palm Beach County.
Valencia Reserve has offered its residents an opportunity to create memories and experience a lifestyle through their sports program and the facilities provided. The 55-and-older community has been among the leaders in athletics with residents continuing to participate and engage in activities.
Valencia Reserve, which opened in 2009, has residents competing at a high level in several fall and spring leagues against other communities in the county. Valencia Reserve has won league championships in each sport, including golf, stickball, softball, bowling, tennis and pickleball. They also have earned multiple league titles.
Valencia Reserve has close to 300 active tennis players with nine Har-Tru courts on its premises. There also are over 300 pickleball participants with five courts as well as close to 200 bocce members and two courts.
Catherine Barton serves as director of sports at Valencia Reserve. After starting with the community in 2018 and providing support to the tennis program, she has helped build the sports program. She has assisted in the expansion of the sports complex in 2019 and the growing participation in sports activities and events. She also helped the tennis committee during its search for a tennis professional. Cliff Rizzi, director of tennis, joined Valencia Reserve after a stint at Mizner Country Club.
“The reality is this community is very committed to physical activity and health,” Barton said. “We have over 50% residents involved and it makes us one of the more active 55-plus communities. We have some of the prettiest pickleball courts in Palm Beach County. We host league championships and other tournaments and events throughout the year. It’s exciting and we are doing a lot and working really hard. We have so much fun and the reward has been the positive feedback.”
Valencia Reserve had a Make-A-Wish Foundation pickleball exhibition benefit event in January 2020. Pickleball professionals Steve Kennedy, Leigh Waters and Anna Leigh Waters were all participants in the event. Barton also has been an advocate in promoting the growing game of pickleball. She created Women’s Power Pickleball, the first women’s Pickleball League in Palm Beach County.
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, Valencia Reserve was one of the leading communities to provide outdoor sports to its residents. The tennis, pickleball and bocce intramural leagues created inside the community resulted in a big turnout and higher participation numbers.
“The HOA board gave us a very clear directive about safety,” Barton said. “During COVID, tennis and pickleball were safe and healthy outdoor activities. We took on the responsibility to build the biggest and best intramural programs. The feedback was that other communities did not have their courts open or they needed appointments. We fielded a 24/7 program and we had so much engagement and there was so much to do here.”
Rizzi said he has been proud of the development of the tennis program at Valencia Reserve. They recently had a round-robin tournament on eight courts and over 40 residents gathered for a Carnaval Court Roland Garros-themed event where they played tennis games to win prizes and giveaways. They are making preparations for a Men’s and Women’s Tennis Pro-Am in November. They also are planning organized trips to tennis events in upcoming years, including the Delray Beach Open and Miami Open.
“We have a lot of interest from our tennis members,” Rizzi said. “The participation factor is different here and we have so many of our members who are active and playing tennis every day.”
Valencia Reserve resident Marty Messinger is one of the active participants in the sports programs. He previously played tennis and currently is a member of the Valencia Reserve stickball and pickleball teams while also hitting the course to play golf.
“I feel like I am in camp every day and it’s so much fun,” he said. “It’s a wonderful community and sports program.”