by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies
For nearly a decade and a half, Mary McKee loved the tranquility her home offered. But things changed when a pickleball court opened across the street at a community center. McKee and her neighbors are now hearing the sounds accompanying pickleball that many people across the country have complained about. She said she believed she could become accustomed to the sounds or they would fade into the background. However, that did not happen and the sounds continued to “reverberate around her home.”
A few weeks ago, the New York Times published a story about McKee, and others around the nation who have been dealing with the disruptive noise from pickleball courts as the sport grows more popular.
One person describes the sounds of a pickleball game to shots ringing out from a pistol range. Another describes them as being torturous. Author Andrew Keh interviewed retired engineer and avid pickleball player Bob Unetich, who said pickleball sounds could reach 70 decibels. These sounds were also the topic of discussion at a noise conference. One conference participant was quoted saying that he is hearing more complaints about pickleball than leaf blowers.
In response to the growing uproar about disturbing pickleball sounds, ways to reduce the sounds are being explored. This includes designing balls and paddles to be quieter. Of course, courts could also be built further from residents. Otherwise, we may find more lawsuits against pickleball courts, which could result in them being closed.
It was interesting to read that some players sympathized with those who are complaining about the noise. Yet, apparently one of three players said he still will continue to play, stating that “it’s unlucky for those people.” I guess this person speaks for many people who refuse to lessen the noises they impose on others. Some people would say this attitude is true of airports and the aviation industry as a whole, which have not adequately addressed aircraft noise. Yet, we must recognize, as the Times expressed in an article on noise last month, that disturbing sounds are detrimental to our physical and mental health.