Tennis courts

Pickleball wars heat up Vancouver tennis courts

The new pop-up pickleball court program aims to alleviate noise concerns and reassure tennis players who don’t want to lose space on the court.

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The pop, pop, pop of wiffle balls on paddles has caused lawsuits and noise wars across North America, but for players, “pickleball pop” is music to the ears.

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Noise issues aside, some tennis players have spoken out about access to local tennis courts, fearful of losing court space to beginning pickleball players.

“We have two passionate sports groups here, and when people are passionate, they can get overzealous,” said Erica McDonald, Vancouver Park Board Director.

In an attempt to address the issue, on July 14, the park’s board launched a pop-up pickleball court program that converted nine underutilized tennis courts into 34 pickleball pop-ups that will run on dates staggered, from July 14 to October 27.

McDonald said the park board collects usage frequency information, and that pickleball, paddleball and tennis will all be considered in the park board’s VanPlay strategic plan, which includes the development of an outside field strategy.

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After the pickleball pop-up program was announced in February, a Change.org petition started by an anonymous “silent tennis player” aimed to “prevent the elimination of public tennis courts” and suggested that local pickleball players were causing a community division with demands. to share the courts, and “claimed that the tennis community in Vancouver is declining, elitist, entitled, and that the tennis courts are empty and surplus”.

Janet Martini, a retired doctor who fell in love with pickleball two years ago when she took a few lessons at a local community centre, said: “We don’t want to take anything away from tennis players. All we want are courts. We have lost six courts in the last two years.

Tennis courts set aside in Queen Elizabeth Park and Dunbar at the start of the craze were closed to pickleball players in 2020, following noise complaints from neighbours. There are currently no permanent, dedicated pickleball facilities in the city.

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Martini said respecting communities is a priority and that pickleball courts should be at least 100 yards from homes — a distance that makes this a particularly difficult conundrum to solve in a city as dense as Vancouver.

Vancouver Tennis Society president Nick Tchernikov said rumors of a turf war are overblown: “We’re not against anyone and we welcome more people into a sport. Pickleball is a great alternative for people who no longer play tennis.

All tennis players want, well, pickleball players want the same thing. Courts.

“We want to be able to meet the demand for tennis. There are inadequate tennis facilities in the city and the facilities are poorly maintained,” Chernikov said.

Chernikov estimates there are between 60,000 and 70,000 recreational tennis players in the Lower Mainland, compared to what he estimates to be around 7,800 pickleball players. Although there are 108 public tennis courts in Vancouver, crowding is already a problem at better-maintained “super courts” like Queen Elizabeth Park and Kitsilano Beach.

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Chernikov, who said his association was not behind the petition, said the recent pop-up pickleball court scheme run by the park board raised concerns among tennis players when it first announces: “Tennis players don’t want their courts taken away from them. . If this is threatened by the park board, it’s going to be a problem.

Cooler heads prevailed once the tennis community learned that the pop-up pickleball courts were part of a temporary program that will allow the park board to gauge demand among the wiffleball set.

Meanwhile, Martini said pickleball players have come out in droves, so when city officials come by three times a day to count heads, the courts seem busy.

“I went out every day, even in the heat,” Martini said.

And there may be some tennis players among them.

“Pickleball is great for tennis players who are injured or aging out of the sport,” Martini said.

For their part, Quiet Tennis Player recently updated their petition, citing “positive developments”. Or maybe Quiet Tennis Player just quit his sport and switched to pickleball.

dyan@postmedia.com

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