July 24, 2023

The Pickleball Pickle

Pickleball seems to be quite the rage right now. It’s a combination of tennis, with some ping pong and badminton thrown in. It can be played at a leisurely pace that our neighborhood elders can enjoy, or it can become fast paced and quite competitive for all of Washington’s Type A’s.

All over town,  indoor and outdoor pickleball courts are opening up – the DC Department of Public Works has listed 69 facilities that the city has opened as of Spring of this year. At the same time, a lot of private tennis courts are being repurposed, with pickleball markings added to the white lines, and some condo and apartment buildings with tennis courts are repurposing at least some of them for pickleball playing.

But here’s the rub. Pickleball is annoying. It’s the noise factor. Now, all sports can be noisy, mostly because of cheering (or booing) fans. But with pickleball, especially at facilities with several courts, it’s the noise of the racket hitting the plastic ball. And depending on how many games are being played at once, it can sound like a giant microwave full of popping corn.

In Montgomery County, there is a group of rather high end garden style condos set in the middle of woods, and for decades, birdsong was the only thing neighbors heard when they opened their windows. Then, they repurposed their tennis courts for pickleball, and many of the owners became so enthusiastic about the game that they joined a league. And now, noise is an issue, at least for the owners who live close to the courts. Last I heard, they were working it out in a neighborly manner.

But across the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia, neighbors of some of the public courts are threatening lawsuits. At the courts at the Walter Reed Community Center, there are balls popping throughout the day until lights out at ten PM, often with multiple games being played at the same time.  Unlike homeowners in the Montgomery County Condo, these Virginia residents can’t just close the courts at dark after a vote of the condo board – the Virginia they have to petition the local City Council or Department of Parks to put a damper on their pickleball noise on the public courts.

So one more thing you might want to consider if you’re looking for a new place is the local pickleball situation!