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Pickleball players measure game's sound in effort to keep courts open

North Saanich council has voted to close Wain Park pickleball courts, citing noise
Jordan Mikkers monitors sound at the Carnarvon Park pickleball courts on Wednesday. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Pickleball players filled the courts at Carnarvon Park in Oak Bay on Wednesday to measure the noise from their playing.

It was an attempt to show North Saanich council there are adequate options to mitigate sound on pickleball courts in the hopes councillors will reverse a decision to close what players consider the region’s best outdoor court.

In response to ongoing noise complaints from neighbours, North Saanich council voted to close the courts at Wain Park as of May 7, instead of investing in sound-reduction measures. The decision has led to upset in the pickleball community, with more than 1,700 people signing an online petition as of Wednesday afternoon urging the council to consider sound mitigation measures.

“We’re all at a bit of a loss,” said Patti Sumida, who lives a six-minute drive from the Wain Park courts and played on them four to five days a week in warmer weather from about April to October.

The Wain Park courts are a dedicated outdoor pickleball facility, with great nets and painted lines just for pickleball, while the vast majority of other outdoor options have tennis lines and tennis nets, she said.

Sound measurements were taken at Carnarvon Park using a calibrated microphone connected to a computer from about 50 metres on either side of the court to show the impact of acoustic panelling, which covers one side of the court’s fencing. Measurements were also taken from inside the court and just outside the door. At each location, measurements were taken while 16 people played with regular paddles and then with a quiet paddle known as the Owl.

Created by Oak Bay resident Howard Haugom, the Owl is the first paddle certified by USA Pickleball, the sport’s American governing body, in its quiet category.

Preliminary measurements showed about a 25 per cent reduction in sound from about 50 metres away on the side of the court that has acoustic panelling compared to the same distance away on the side of the court without sound mitigation measures, said Jordan Mikkers, a mechanical designer who owns Maximum Prototyping and was involved in the development of the Owl.

The combination of a quiet paddle and acoustic panelling brought the pickleball noise down to similar levels as tennis, he said.

Measurements were taken from 50 metres away because that’s about the distance of the nearest house to the Wain Park courts, said Brad Watson, president of the Saanich Peninsula Pickleball Association, which organized the event with the Victoria Regional Pickleball Association.

With houses on two sides of the Wain Park court, acoustic panelling would be needed for two-and-a-half sides of the court, he said.

An estimate from a supplier put the cost to outfit Wain Park courts with acoustic panelling at around $35,000 to $40,000, said Tessa Graham, vice-president of the Victoria Regional Pickleball Association.

The association contributed $4,000 to the sound mitigation measures at Carnarvon Park and it has made the same offer to North Saanich, but has not heard back, she said.

North Saanich Coun. Jack McClintock, who attended the event at Carnarvon Park, said the sound measurements could bring “reliable, unbiased” information to council to encourage a discussion on sound mitigation measures.

“Perhaps there might be an appetite on council to reopen that and I would certainly be in favour of revisiting the issue with any new information,” said McClintock, the lone dissenting vote in the decision to close the Wain Park courts.

Pickleball players attended the most recent North Saanich council meeting on May 6, registering their displeasure with outbursts while Coun. Kristine Marshall read a statement explaining the council decision to close the courts.

The municipality puts the cost of sound mitigation measures at $90,000 and other communities have found additional measures were needed on top of sound mitigation, Marshall said.

Council has asked the Peninsula Recreation Commission to explore other locations for pickleball courts, she said.

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