Pickleball growth raises racket in Victoria, city bans sport in some parks over noise complaints

Pickleball players readily admit their sport is noisy, but complaining about noise from people having a good time is out of the question, players and officials say.

Connie McCann bounces a ball off her paddle and says rhythmic pok-pok-pok is about as loud as road traffic or rain on a rooftop.

Not everyone agrees. In Victoria, pickleball players are banned from some tennis courts due to noise complaints.

“Noise is people having fun,” said McCann, president of the Victoria Regional Pickleball Association. “That’s a good sound.”

Victoria Regional Pickleball Association official Connie McCann says the sport is as loud as normal traffic. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

She said she was shocked that the city decided earlier this spring to ban pickleball in her James Bay neighborhood, located near the British Columbia Legislative Assembly, because some residents living near the courts complained about the noise.

Instead, James Bay pickleball players were told they could play on the courts in Central Park, located in downtown Victoria. It was a response that highlighted the city’s sluggishness and inadequacy in the face of the sport’s growing popularity, McCann said.

“A pickle fight,” McCann, 70, said with a laugh as she stood courtside as other players warmed up for a doubles match.

“It was definitely a sharp change for pickleball players, and because there is such demand for the courts, the closure of two courts was a huge blow,” she said. “It left over 100 players with nowhere to go in their neighborhood.”

McCann holds a polymer racket and ball used to play pickleball. Together they create the sport’s distinctive pok…pok…pok sound. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

Pickleball dates back to the mid-1960s, when several families vacationing in Washington State were looking to play new games on an outdoor badminton court.

It combines elements of tennis, table tennis and badminton and is played on a tennis net with what look like oversized ping pong paddles and a hollow plastic ball.

Recently, Victoria Council approved plans for two and possibly three new pickleball courts in a former parking lot in the city’s Beacon Hill Park.

The city is also planning six more pickleball courts next year near existing sports fields.

The more courts, the better, McCann said. But Victoria still lags behind smaller communities such as Kelowna, Kamloops and Vernon, which each have at least 10 dedicated public pickleball courts, private pickleball clubs and public pickleball-capable tennis courts.

Pickleball Canada president Karen Rust said pickleball is becoming a sport for all ages, with the fastest growing sector being the 18-35 age group.

She boasts that the best female pickleball singles player in the world is Quebecer Catherine Parenteau.

Pickleball Canada has more than 29,000 registered players, but the actual number of participants is much higher, Rust, 65, said in an interview from Regina.

Courts are being built across Canada, from Medicine Hat, Alberta, to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, to Inverness, Nova Scotia, she said.

Tony Gibb returns a serve during a match at Central Park in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

Rust advised cities to build dedicated pickleball courts in locations away from homes to deter noise complaints.

“There are a few things that can be done,” she said. “You can put noise barriers around the courts, kind of like windscreens that have noise reduction capabilities. There are paddles that are a little quieter and there and balls that are a little quieter.”

But noise is part of the joy of pickleball, Rust said.

“There’s a lot of laughs, and I think that’s one of the reasons there are noise complaints because people are having fun,” she said, adding “sometimes it seems bother people”.

The sport brings economic spinoffs, Rust said, with a national tournament in Red Deer last year contributing $1 million to the local economy.

Pickleball Canada President Karen Rust said people will move to communities with dedicated pickleball infrastructure. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC)

“People will move to a community that has those kinds of facilities,” she said. “I know Victoria may be a bit short on space, but they have to look because it’s important to their residents. It’s important to people who are thinking of moving to Victoria and there are economic benefits too. .”

McCann, who retired from sailing around the world to pursue his love of pickleball, said his quest became convincing city officials to help the sport grow.

“Would I say they have a full understanding of the situation? No, they haven’t, but it’s our responsibility to educate them and we try to do that to the best of our abilities,” she said.

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