To cover pickleball news these days, it helps to pay attention to what’s going on in local government chambers, community meeting rooms and court – and not the pickleball court.
The growing popularity of pickleball is creating new opportunities for lawyers, community activists, and other merchants of strife.
Here’s just a sampling of some ongoing actions:
The “Mental False Alarms” of Pickleball
The mayor of the town of Mission Woods, a suburb of Kansas City, Kansas, owns a home that backs up to the Mission Hills Country Club.
Darrell Franklin and his wife, Laurie, have recently filed a lawsuit because the adjacent country club near their home converted some outdoor tennis courts to four pickleball courts.
The courts, which are as close as 200 feet from the mayor’s home, were converted in 2017, along with an acoustic barrier fence designed to reduce the noise created by the pickleball games.
The mayor’s lawsuit complains that the sound dampening isn’t enough, and the courts, which are in use from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., are ruining his ability to enjoy his home.
“When the paddle hits the ball it creates a popping sound that causes mental false alarms and makes it difficult to relax, concentrate or sleep soundly,” the lawsuit says, as reported by a local TV news station. “The continual noise can cause stress, fatigue and anxiety.”
The club recently made a concession by limiting the hours of pickleball from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. But the lawsuit asks for more action.
It calls for the club to move the pickleball courts so they are not closer than 600 feet from the mayor’s home.
Windows Down in Philadelphia?
The six outdoor pickleball courts at the city-run Water Tower Recreation Center in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Chestnut Hill have gotten popular enough to draw complaints from neighbors who have threatened a lawsuit over a violation of the city’s noise ordinance.
“Eight, nine months a year you can’t open your windows,” nearby resident Joe O’Donnell, told the local Fox 29 news. “Did you ever try and live someplace where you can’t open your windows with the racket? That’s how loud it is.”
At a community meeting, nearby residents suggested a gamut of solutions, everything from softer balls, to fewer hours, to a total shutdown. An email has been circulating in the neighborhood. It’s from an account called “STOP PICKLEBALL.”
One of the pickleball players at the Water Tower Recreation Center hoped for a middle-ground solution between the players and the neighbors.
“I think there’s some validity to it,” said Jude Brandt. “I mean, it is noisier than tennis. And I think the dialogue between the players and the residents is important.”
In response to the complaints, the city has eliminated Sunday hours at the pickleball courts, ended play on Saturdays after 5 p.m., and cut weekday hours, by ending play at 8 p.m., instead of 9 p.m., and starting an hour later in the morning.
The Great Tennis v. Pickleball War of 2022
They want the town to convert three of the eight tennis courts at the town’s Recreation Park, for pickleball use. And they’ve raised the money on their own to do the conversion.
This plan has rankled the local tennis players, who don’t want to give up any of their courts to the upstart pickleballers, and consider the converted courts in question the best three courts in town.
This local squabble is being narrated on Twitter by E. Carrington Heath, a congregational pastor, who seems to be enjoying the packed-house town meetings this subject has created.
“People are out in the hall because they can’t fit in,” he narrated from a meeting in early May. “Neighbor against neighbor. Friendships will fall.”
Heath admits he knows nothing about pickleball, and that he’s just in it for the drama. He has dubbed it The Great Tennis v. Pickleball War of 2022.
“Apparently, recently a pickleballer said to people playing tennis, ‘One day these will all be pickleball courts.’ Shots. Fired,” Heath tweeted.
“To be clear,” Heath wrote, “I plan to be a total chaos agent and demand equal representation for badminton.”
This dispute has come to the attention of tennis great, Martina Navratilova, the winner of 18 Grand Slam singles tennis titles.
She tweeted: “I say if pickleball is that popular let them build their own courts.”
So far, there has been no pro pickleball response to Navratilova.
Simone Jardim? Anna Leigh Waters? Lucy Kovalova? Anybody there?
The ball is in your court.