Unless measures are put in place from the very beginning, the growth and popularity of pickleball will experience the same challenges as have been witnessed with padel.
Pickleball is an indoor or outdoor racket/paddle sport where either two players or two couples hit a perforated hollow plastic ball over a 0.91 m net. They use solid-faced paddles on a court that is roughly the size of a doubles badminton court.
In 2021, 2022 and 2023, the sport was named the fastest-growing sport in the United States by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, with over 4.8 million players.
The growth in the number of pickleball courts being installed has been met by an increase in complaints about noise pollution.
It has even forced the local authorities of the Canadian capital, Ottawa, to withdraw permission for a local tennis club to play outdoor pickleball at its Centennial Park.
According to CBC News, nearby residents complained about the penetrating sound of players’ paddles and hard plastic balls. With its permission revoked, Manotick Tennis Club has decided to convert its four pickleball courts back to the one tennis court it sacrificed in 2018 to facilitate the new sport.
CBC News quoted local resident Scott Shannon saying that “It’s about 10 times as loud as tennis.”
Like padel, pickleball is viewed as a way to attract new members and to generate additional income. The younger generation in particular enjoy the pace of both games rather than the pace often experienced in tennis, while the increased footfall often guarantees more revenue to clubs. Where a tennis court can accommodate a maximum of four players (when playing doubles), the four pickleball courts that can be installed on the same footprint mean up to 16 people can be accommodated at a time.
Over and above more income from membership fees, the likelihood of more people consuming food or drinks at the bar means more revenue from the sale of food and beverages.
In the case of Manotick Tennis Club, they saw their membership jump from about 450 to 825, while they actually had their sights on 600.
Noise pollution standards
While the excitement of up to 16 active players already means an increase in noise compared to a standard tennis court, the rackets used for both padel and pickleball increase the noise even more. In the case of pickleball, the plastic ball hitting the padel racket is also considered a nuisance.
This has prompted the authorities in the Netherlands to draft a standard for acceptable noise levels from a padel court. The standard is discussed in this article.