Pickleball has been a blessing to some during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing exercise, fresh air and a chance to socialize outdoors.
But for some who live near pickleball courts, the cacophony that accompanies the burgeoning sport can be a curse.
Many pickleball players practice their sport on reconfigured outdoor tennis courts. The sport has ties to tennis, but uses a paddle instead of a racket and a hard ball instead of a fuzzy tennis ball. The results can be noisy.
Connie Ball, who lives near the pickleball courts in Blue Mountain Park in Coquitlam, British Columbia, has been battling sound for 18 months.
“You can’t take a nap,” she said of the noise. “It’s just an invasion. It’s going straight to our house.”
The courts at Blue Mountain Park were redesigned in 2020 for pickleball, but after noise complaints from Ball and other neighbors, the city limited play to the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with an afternoon break. one o’clock to noon.
The battle for judicial space is being played out across the region.
Organizers like Erin Davidson of the PoCoMo Pickleball Club are trying to strike a balance.
“Noise, land value and land availability have to be considered,” Davidson said.
After months of planning, the Vancouver Park Board and the Vancouver Pickleball Association recently announced that they would turn several tennis courts into pop-up pickleball courts, although no timeline was given.
George Harvie, the mayor of Delta, British Columbia, wrote a letter to pickleball officials expressing support for the sport, but also asking them to consider modifying equipment to reduce noise.
“It can be quite boring,” Harvie said. “It’s like a perpetual aluminum bat hitting a baseball,” he said.
But the president of the Vancouver Pickleball Association says using a softer ball would change the nature of the sport.
“It would be the equivalent of requiring hockey players to use foam pucks,” Greg Feehan said.
Feehan said he was sensitive to noise complaints, noting that in addition to the sound of paddles hitting balls, pickleball is a “very loud” sport filled with chatter between players.
Noise complaints, he says, underscore the need for better facilities for a sport that has grown faster than anyone anticipated.
Pickleball continues to grow
The sport dates back more than half a century to its beginnings in Washington State.
After golfing one summer day in 1965, Congressman Joel Pritchard and businessman Bill Bell returned home to Bainbridge Island, Washington, to find their families sitting idle, according to USA Pickleball .
The property had an old badminton court. Pritchard and Bell searched for badminton equipment, but couldn’t find a full set of rackets, so they improvised and started playing with ping pong rackets and a perforated plastic ball.
From its humble roots, the sport’s popularity has surged in recent years. The pandemic has prompted even more people to take a paddle.
Karen Rust, president of Pickleball Canada, says a recent Ipsos poll indicates that about 900,000 households in Canada play the sport, up from about 350,000 two years ago.
Steve Deakin, who competes in professional-level tournaments and is Canada’s highest-ranked doubles player, says pickleball is enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities.
“With pickleball, I find I can have four starters on a court that haven’t even touched a paddle, and have them playing in five to 10 minutes,” Deakin said.
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