Cities in a pickle: The love-hate relationship between pickleballers and almost everyone else

April 10, 2023

Cities nationwide are grappling with the seemingly limitless demand for pickleball courts—and blowback from neighbors who complain that the constant smack-smack-smack is VERY LOUD, reports Axios.

Pickleball supposedly is America’s fastest-growing sport—but adherents are clashing with sleep-loving neighbors; as well as with tennis players and schoolchildren who say their courts and playgrounds are being usurped.

Turf wars between tennis players and pickleballers have devolved into shouting matches (and worse) in San Diego, Atlanta, and New York.

In New York City, pickleball players were bannedfrom a Greenwich Village playground after they were accused of “forcibly evicting” the local children, per Gothamist.

Meanwhile, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, makeshift courts in Carl Schurz Park—across from Gracie Mansion, the home of Mayor Eric Adams—”have become the subject of a territorial dispute” among skateboarders, basketball players, and pickleballers, per a hyperlocal news site.

Denver just shut some courts after finding that the sound levels from pickleball play surpassed 70 decibels—above the city limit of 55 decibels.

“In some cases, there is a valid concern for the acoustic impact to neighbors,” say Carl Schmits of USA Pickleball, the sport’s governing body. “And then in other cases, that acoustic concern is being used as a foil by the tennis community to prevent the conversion of existing courts.”

Manhattan’s largest pickleball facility opened on Friday, April 7. It has 14 courts in Central Park that’ll stay open until October 9, in a well-funded private effort called “CityPickle at Wollman Rink.”

“New Yorkers are really hungry for opportunities for pickleball,” says Erica Desai, who founded CityPickle18 months ago with her friend and tennis partner, Mary Cannon.

When the company opened its first courts last fall in New York City’s Hudson Yards, “we sold out the entire month of October within two hours of that signup going public,” Desai says.

CityPickle is trying to bring the “eatertainment”concept to urban pickleball, with plans to open upscale courts in top metropolitan areas—including Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto and Washington, D.C.—where players can get lessons, hold parties, and nosh on tacos and margaritas.

Its  first permanent venue, opening this spring, will be a swanky indoor pickleball club in Long Island City, Queens, with a pro shop, restaurant and climate-controlled courts.

“We think that social nature of pickleball is really a special sauce, and we want to create opportunities to bring together that kind of community and joy that we feel around pickleball,” Desai says.

Research contact: @axios