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No pickleball for River Heights neighborhood; noise complaints remain

November 1st, 2015 Posted in Arts and Life

By Melanie Fenstermaker

RIVER HEIGHTS — The River Heights City Council voted 3-to-2 Tuesday against building pickleball courts in the Saddle Rock subdivision, a new housing development off 600 South and 1000 East.


USA Pickleball Association photo

The decision was made after a discussion about noise from pickleball play on the tennis courts at Ryan’s Place Park. The Council voted to paint pickleball lines on the tennis courts in September, but since then, some nearby residents have complained about noise from the courts.

“I was so shocked to hear the neighbors and their noise complaints,” said City Council member Dixie Wilson. “You plunk something down in the middle of a residential area and you sometimes don’t think of the consequences. I wouldn’t want a bunch of pickleball players in my backyard.”

Pickleball is a tennis-like sport that involves hitting a whiffle-type ball over a net with wooden paddles, and it’s likely the sport’s distinctive “pinging” sound that bothers some residents, said Peggy Smith, who plays pickleball regularly in River Heights.

Public Works director Clayten Nelsen said pickleball games at Ryan’s Place Park are loud, partly because the sound seems to echo off the River Heights Elementary School building.

“I stopped over by the school crossing the other day and I could hear it,” he said. “I don’t know why it carries so bad, but it does. On Sixth South I could hear it over there like they were playing right in my ear.”

Noise might have been less of an issue at Saddle Rock, Nelsen added, because there are fewer adjacent buildings that would make the noise from the courts echo.

But in addition to noise concerns, Saddle Rock residents expressed concern that a pickleball court may not be ideal for the neighborhood.

“I’m not sure that a pickleball court really meets the needs for this new and growing community,” said Nicole Vouvalis, who recently bought property in the Saddle Rock subdivision. “I think a green space would be amazing. There are a lot of young children who won’t get a lot of use out of a pickleball court, but who might be able to go kick a soccer ball around and build a snowman.”

Another concern was that there is little parking in the area. “There’s no designated parking spots,” Vouvalis said. “I worry about parking and traffic, and I worry about safety, particularly for . . . children.”

Smith, who plays pickleball often in River Heights with family and friends, said she’s not upset that the City Council decided against building a new pickleball court, and is grateful for the lines on the tennis court at Ryan’s Place Park.

“We kind of like it right here where this playground’s here and there’s a lot of activity,” she said. “If I lived [in the Saddle Rock Division] I might have an opinion, but I don’t. I’m very happy with the paint on the one court.”

In order to keep the volume down at Ryan’s Place Park, Mayor James Brackner suggested limiting play, perhaps from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Banning certain pickleball equipment may be another noise control option, Wilson said. She said the USA Pickleball Association has plans to make quieter paddles and balls, which might significantly reduce volume.

The Council has made no final decision as to how to control the noise at Ryan’s Place Park, or how the city will use the Saddle Rock open space.


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