pickleball courts

Experts recommend HOAs and communities consider the “popping” noise associated with pickleball when deciding to build courts near homes. (CREDIT: AIP)

OTTAWA, Ontario — Pickleball Legal Consultant may be the next big career trend on the job market. A new study explains that many cities could soon find themselves in legal hot water over the noise on local pickleball courts.

There’s no denying that pickleball has captivated the United States, with communities all over the country building courts so residents can enjoy this unique mix of tennis and ping pong. Unfortunately, new research presented at a joint meeting of the Acoustical Society of America and the Canadian Acoustical Association finds that the rush to build these courts may have overlooked some serious noise considerations.

Charles Leahy, an attorney, retired mechanical engineer, and former Homeowner’s Association board member, started examining this problem after his own HOA dismissed the suggestions of local noise consultants. The HOA failed to install noise-absorbing barriers, which neighbors were not happy about. A lawsuit claiming that the pickleball area is a local noise nuisance is now threatening to close the courts for good.

Leahy started working with acoustic engineers to understand how they assess noise issues and the best ways to reduce the volume of pickleball pandemonium before it upsets everyone living around these courts. Unlike a tennis ball, the biggest problem with pickleball is the fact that everything players use is made of plastic.

“Compared to tennis, pickleball is a much smaller court, easier to learn, and especially accessible to seniors,” Leahy says in a media release. “Each tennis court can become up to four pickleball courts. Tennis involves a soft and compressible ball and a racket with strings. Pickleball is a hard plastic ball and a hard paddle. Tennis produces a ‘thunk’ sound versus pickleball ’pop,’ which is louder, sharper, more piercing, and more frequent. Thus, more annoying.”

A woman hits a dink shot while playing pickleball.
New research finds that the rush to build these courts may have overlooked some serious noise considerations. (© Ron Alvey – stock.adobe.com)

Leahy also studied more than 70 pickleball consultant noise reports, comparing their findings to recommendations from the American National Standard Institute. It turns out that many reports only considered the decibels (the units of sound) produced by playing pickleball. However, they didn’t factor in how and when those sounds occur and why people find it so annoying.

“It’s not just the loudness, it’s the impulsive sharpness and randomness of the ‘pops,’” Leahy explains. “It’s the persistence and repetition of the random noises over many hours a day, usually seven days a week.”

Leahy found that the best solution for future pickleball court construction is to simply build them further away from where people live — not right next to residential property. The sweet spot seems to be between 600 and 800 feet away from homes, so the sound of constant pickleball paddling has a chance to dissipate.

For those courts already in use and facing the threat of legal action, putting up wall barriers or using less noisy paddles and balls may be the only option.

“Pickleball has a highly impulsive noise, with each court generating about 900 pop noises per hour,” Leahy explains. “It’s incompatible with residential living. Cities can also locate pickleball in industrial and commercial neighborhoods rather than close to homes.

“The benefits of pickleball to the players are undeniable, and the demand for more pickleball courts is real and genuine. However, there needs to be more research, more planning and prevention, and more effort to avoid ending up in front of the judge and jury.”

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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