The city of Glendale, Arizona cracked down on pickleball players this summer by implementing strict new rules that have sparked controversy within the community.
In June 2023, Glendale officials passed an ordinance restricting when, where and how pickleball can be played at city parks. While the city claims the rules are necessary to address noise complaints, many local pickleball players argue they are excessive and unfairly target their sport.
The most contentious of the new regulations include:
- Pickleball play is banned between 10pm and 7am. This cuts off night owls who enjoyed playing under the lights after work.
- No more than 4 players can occupy a court at once. Groups of 6 who routinely play round-robin tournaments will be forced to split up.
- Noise cannot exceed 60 decibels at the court boundary. Critics say this decibel limit is lower than that enforced on basketball or tennis players.
- Amplified sound systems are prohibited. So much for pump up music to get players motivated.
In a statement, Glendale spokespersons said the rules aim to strike a balance for all park users. They maintain enforcement will be consistent across activities.
However, pickleball enthusiasts contend they are being unfairly targeted. Complaints from local players include:
- The limited hours make it extremely difficult to find court time as the sport’s popularity explodes. Courts are packed as it is.
- Capping the number of payers per court at 4 is overly restrictive. This prohibits normal competitive play.
- Measuring sound at the court boundary instead of property lines is unrealistic. Pickleballs popping off paddles can’t possibly stay under 60 decibels right on the court.
- Other sports like basketball are much noisier, yet their noise levels aren’t regulated. Pickleball players feel singled out.
In response to the player feedback, Glendale officials state they are open to revising the rules. But they plan to continue enforcement in the meantime.
This pickleball dispute highlights the growing pains that come with the sport’s rising popularity. As more people discover pickleball’s fun and social aspects, demand for court time has skyrocketed. With that has come more noise complaints from those living near courts.
Glendale is not alone in grappling with the pickleball boom. Communities across the country are working to balance court access for new players with minimizing impacts on residents.
Creative solutions could include setting up temporary pickleball courts in schoolyards, church parking lots or other spaces not near homes. Or designated hours could be assigned by age or skill level to help match players appropriately.
As an avid pickleball player myself, I understand the concerns on both sides. The paddling, popping balls and animated chatter of players does generate noticeable noise. But restricting when and how people can enjoy a sport seems an overreaction.
I hope Glendale can forge a compromise with pickleball players to keep the game accessible while addressing noise concerns. With creative problem solving, they can craft rules that work for all park users. Because the health, social and community benefits of this fun sport should be shared by as many eager players as possible.