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Pickleball players banned from Victoria park for making a racket

The noise from pickleball “is an irritant,” acknowledges the head of the Victoria Regional Pickleball Association, noting studies have suggested the sound is the equivalent of cars passing on a street. “But it doesn’t break any noise bylaws.”
Connie McCann, president of the Victoria Regional Pickleball Association, is frustrated that pickleball will no longer be allowed at the Todd Park tennis courts on Niagara Street due to noise complaints. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Pickleball players will no longer have access to courts in James Bay after the city gave notice it will remove pickleball lines from tennis courts at Todd Park and told players they could no longer book the courts due to noise complaints.

The move, in effect as of April 1, has outraged the Victoria Regional Pickleball Association, which noted it was not consulted, given a chance to address concerns or given alternative accommodation in other parts of the city.

Connie McCann, president of the regional association, said anyone involved in the sport would acknowledge there is a noise issue with the game, which involves a hard plastic ball hit with a hard paddle, but noted there was no chance to try reduced hours or noise-deadening panels around the court.

“It is an irritant,” she said, noting studies have suggested the sound is the equivalent of cars passing on a street. “But it doesn’t break any noise bylaws.”

She would have liked to see the city offer to establish dedicated courts at another park as an interim measure or at least fix up courts at Franklin Green, which many older players feel is unplayable, to handle the demand.

Instead, McCann said, the city has offered to allow people to rebook at Central Park.

McCann said the popularity of the sport, which she said has grown significantly over the past three years, spurred on in part by the pandemic, will mean Central’s courts will likely be booked solid, leaving recreational players even fewer places to drop in for a game.

The City of Victoria acknowledges the popularity of the sport, adding last year it issued 1,041 hours of pickleball permits, up from 169.5 in 2020 and zero in 2018.

City spokesman Bill Eisenhauer said user groups were told the city had received several noise complaints and that options were being explored.

He said the Central Park option was offered because of the courts’ distance from homes.

“The pickleball lines in Todd Park were added in 2018 before an industry standard of 50 metres from homes was established,” he said. “The courts in Todd Park are just 17 metres from the nearest homes, and installation of pickleball lines on those courts wouldn’t be approved today.”

The city is also hearing a demand for “exclusive tennis use” at the Todd Park courts, he said. “In fact, we hear from both tennis and pickleball organizations that dedicated courts are preferred.”

The city offers pickleball courts in Central Park, Oaklands Park, Barnard Park, and Franklin Green.

“We’re planning to introduce a dedicated set of pickleball courts at Topaz, as part of the next phase of improvements to the park, where noise will not impact nearby residents,” Eisenhauer said.

McCann said that is great news, but noted the Topaz courts are two years away from completion.

In the meantime, she said, players in James Bay and South Fairfield have lost the option to walk or cycle to a court.

Pickleball, which has smaller playing area than tennis, is a very social game and is less hard on the joints than tennis, McCann said, something that has attracted a lot of former tennis, badminton and squash players to its ranks.

McCann said the regional body has 320 members, with another 150 with lapsed memberships.

“But that is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said, noting most players are not affiliated with the organization.