As the sport of pickleball grows, so do the number of courts being built in communities in the United States, and around the world. This is thrilling news to those of us who love pickleball! But, for those who live next to or near pickleball courts, it’s a totally different story. Articles have appeared in newspapers where homeowners near pickleball courts are filing complaints within their communities. This makes for bad press for pickleball.
Where ever there is fun, there will be noise. Playgrounds create noise, as children scream with delight running, jumping, swinging, going down a slide, or spinning around a merry go round. The same might be said about the community swimming pool or the local soccer pitch, basketball court, or baseball field. These recreational areas are meant for children and adults to play, compete, and gather with neighbors and friends in a friendly environment.
So, what’s so different about pickleball. I think we all know the answer to that. Aside from chatter, cheering, laughing, screaming when you miss a serve or shot, and other vocal “human noise,” pickleball comes with a different type of noise. And it’s constant, as long as there are players at the courts. Pop Pop Pop Pop Pop Pop…….. hard balls hitting hard surfaced paddles.
Discussions are beginning to pop up (no pun intended) on Facebook and other internet websites and blogs, about the increase in noise related complaints from pickleball courts. It’s a growing problem that must not be brushed aside. Offering to teach pickleball to nearby home owners may seem like a peace offering and is a great solution to growing the game, but is absolutely not a pacifier to the constant, inherent noise that pickleball creates. We all love the sport, but we need to embrace our court neighbors and do whatever is possible to decrease the interference it creates in their lives. In most cases, the homes were there before the pickleball courts, so we must be respectful.
I have experienced two instances where neighbors have expressed concerns about how pickleball has interrupted their daily lives. These are folks who have lived in their homes for any number of years, prior to the courts being built. Their complaints range from being aggravated with the constant sound of the ball being hit, to concerns that their property values will decrease due to the courts being so close. Is it fair for pickleball players to wave off these concerns, taking a “not my problem” stance? I don’t think so. I think it is important for clubs and/or recreation departments who manage pickleball courts to listen to their neighbors, maybe even ask them for their suggestions, and try to implement solutions to help with the stated problems. Pickleball clubs must make a strong effort to be good neighbors.
What can be done? There are many possibilities, but here are two examples of how my former Florida community and my home town community dealt with disgruntled neighbors. I can’t say that there will ever be 100% satisfaction, but the problems have not been ignored, and action has been taken to address the concerns.
- First, in our former Florida community, the club has implemented specific rules in an attempt to respect and appease their neighbors. First, they limit play to 8am – 6pm daily. No ball is to be struck prior to 8am, even to warm up, and games must end at 6pm sharp, regardless of the score. The courts are busy most of the day between 8-6, but at least neighbors can sleep undisturbed a bit later, or have a quiet breakfast, and enjoy a quiet and relaxing evening on their lanai. All balls and paddles are tested for sound levels, and they have a list of paddles and balls that fall within a specific range of sound levels. Any ball or paddle not appearing on that list is not allowed to be used. Lastly, they have installed sound walls around all their court area. Sound testing outside the courts will continue, and if satisfactory, another two courts will be allowed next year. Funding for this came partially from the community and partially from the club members.
- Closer to home in Ohio, our local courts were built at the corner of a parking lot in the community baseball/softball park. The courts have parking and rail road tracks on one side, and a day care center on another, but there is a residential street leading into the park, with several homes within 100 feet of the courts. There had been some complaints by a few of the neighbors to the Rec Department, which lead to sound screens being installed on the sides towards these neighbors. These were funded by the Rec Department, after a respectful conversation with the neighbors. (NOTE: I have not heard whether there have been further complains, but no further restrictions on times or equipment have been put in place.)
What about human noise? Pickleball is meant to be social and fun, as well as competitive. With that comes laughter, loud conversations, as well as outbursts of frustration, including an occasional expletive. While we certainly don’t want to discourage the levity of the game, there could be times when we need to remind players that the level of human noise might be considered excessive. Of course that means someone has to occasionally step up and ask offenders to please lower the volume of their enthusiastic outbursts! It’s not a comfortable position to have to be in, but it might be needed if we are to respect our neighbors. Music volume levels (and genre) should be considered as well.
So, the question must be asked. As the number of venues increase, affecting more nearby homeowners, is enough being done to help lower the noise created naturally by the game? Are paddle and ball manufacturers doing enough to produce quieter equipment? Is it even possible to make a ball or paddle that will be quiet enough to placate our neighbors, while still providing players with the qualities they need to compete? Are clubs addressing this issue with their members; encouraging, and occasionally reminding players to be aware of the level of noise they create? When neighbors complain, are they being listened to and then responded to in a respectful manner with assurance that their complaint is valid and will be addressed? Doing nothing creates a hostile environment. Even the smallest efforts go a long way.
What has been done in your community? Please share your thoughts. I’m sure there are many readers who would like to know what others are doing to address this serious and increasing problem.
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