The fate of pickleball courts in North Saanich, British Columbia, that were slated for closure may now be up in the air. Still, with one major stipulation: only softballs will be allowed, which has been met with resistance from the pickleball community.
Despite its growing popularity, Pickleball has faced various challenges during this period of growth. The most significant of these challenges has been the issue of noise.
Living near the sports courts can be bothersome for neighbors not accustomed to the sound of a solid paddle hitting a hard plastic ball. In urban areas, this sound can be incredibly grating. Some players have sought innovative solutions to this issue, such as implementing sound barriers and utilizing quieter paddles.
The noise is spurring a conversation on softballs being introduced to impact the sound in North Saanich. Initially, the North Saanich council was set on closing the courts at Wain Park due to noise complaints from neighbors and instead building new courts in other locations such as Cy Hampson Park, Blue Heron Park, and Hospital Hill. However, this was met with backlash from residents vehemently opposed to creating pickleball courts in Cy Hampson Park, as they believed it would disturb the park’s tranquility, require substantial structural changes, and take away from the designated dog space.
As a result, the council reversed its initial decision and instead instructed staff to look into banning standard pickleballs in favor of softer, quieter balls. The committee also asked staff to investigate a regional pickleball strategy with neighboring Sidney and Central Saanich.
In a recent article by Times Colonist, Mayor Peter Jones has indicated that staff will look into ways of enforcing the use of softballs. The Wain Road courts remain open if such a rule is enacted and pickleball players comply. However, if players fail to abide by the rule and noise complaints persist, the council may reconsider the decision to keep the courts open.
Some pickleball players have opposed softballs and prefer the standard balls used in tournaments. However, proponents of the change argue that using softer balls will not significantly impact the game’s enjoyment and will result in fewer noise complaints.
Others, such as Brad Watson, president of the Saanich Peninsula Pickleball Association, argue that using softer balls is not a viable solution and will lead to declining usage of the courts. Instead, he advocates for installing acoustic fencing to reduce noise pollution.
Simon Vickers, tennis and pickleball supervisor for Recreation Oak Bay, has suggested that mandating the use of quieter paddles may be a solution that keeps the game of Pickleball the same. This approach has been successfully implemented in other communities.
Regardless of the decision reached by the council, it is clear that there is a requirement for compromise and cooperation between pickleball players and their neighbors to find a solution that allows everyone to enjoy the community spaces they value.
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