Pickleball Noise Deafening in Arizona Communities
Otis and Jean Vaughn thought the active lifestyle and peaceful setting of Venture Out RV Resort in Mesa, Ariz., were the perfect ticket for retirement when they bought a home in the community.
For much of the past two decades, they played tennis, exercised at the community pool and traveled.
But the Vaughns said that tranquility ended when the "pinging and popping" sounds of pickleball erupted on badminton-size courts that were built last year about 30 feet from their driveway, the Arizona Republic.
Otis Vaughn, an 84-year-old World War II veteran, said his complaints to resort and city officials haven't generated any relief.
"It's absolutely deafening," he said of the hard-surface paddles striking perforated, plastic balls.
The Vaughns' protest is among a chorus of objections to noise generated by the game in at least four Arizona retirement communities and several other states.
But the grievances have had little impact on pickleball's spreading popularity at scores of retirement communities throughout the nation and the increasing number of enthusiasts in more than 40 states.
"It's the fastest-growing game in the country," said Robert Hayes, a devout pickleball player and president of the Venture Out Condo Association. "I love the game."
To player Don Bogle, a Mesa resident and one of the game's 350 ambassadors for the USA Pickleball Association, the sport is "addictive."
"You get such an adrenaline rush that it's like a runner's high," he said.
Many people are unfamiliar with the game and marvel at the recent growth of a sport that was created 46 years ago.
The game's biggest surge has evolved over the past five years since the association, an all-volunteer group, was founded, said David Johnson, the association's spokesman.
"They've put a lot of effort into building the sport and promoting its growth . . . throughout America and Canada," said the Seattle-area resident who turned his part-time pickleball equipment-sales business into a full-time enterprise two years ago.
"And when snowbirds are introduced to the sport in places like Arizona they go back home to states like Michigan and introduce it to their friends. Michigan is now one of the more popular states to play pickleball," he said.
But the game has also left a trail of detractors and spawned studies to determine if the sport meets noise regulations. It has also sparked a lawsuit seeking to bar a New Mexico golf and country club from modifying tennis courts for pickleball.
"We hear a lot from recreation departments interested in revitalizing underutilized tennis courts," Johnson said. "Pickleball generally draws a different audience than tennis and usually an older demographic."
For the Vaughns, the issue is noise, not the game.
"We have a lot of friends who play pickleball, and it's not about them or anybody who plays the game," Otis Vaughn said.
But his noise protest appears to have no weight with the city or with Venture Out.
Mesa Councilwoman Dina Higgins of District 5 said she met with the Vaughns in an effort to find a solution, but the city's noise ordinance does not ban noise created by normal activities during daylight hours.
"It's really loud when they are playing," Higgins said. "But we have nothing that prevents you from playing it before 10 p.m."
She said it is unlikely that the pickleball courts closest to the Vaughn home will be moved by the resort because there is nowhere to relocate.
"There are 400 people that play pickleball at Venture Out," she said, "and when you watch the camaraderie that the game generates among people of a lot of ages you realize why it is growing."
John Benter is no stranger to the controversy that surrounds the sport he plays four to five times a week in the Tucson community of SaddleBrooke.
The 70-year-old retired financial controller and president of the community's pickleball group, agreed with protesters that some of the courts were built too close to homes and should be moved.
"We think we're going to get a new facility next month or so," he said. "It's 425 feet from the closest homes and should be six courts.
"It's an incredible sport. You can get a visceral type of satisfaction from playing it, work out your frustrations, get your weight down and get your heart rate up."
But for the Vaughns, it also gets their blood pressures up.
"The noise penetrates our home, and it also carries over to the next street," Otis Vaughn said. He said they have considered moving, but his age would make that difficult.