A Clash of Recreation: Pickleball vs. Tennis in Walnut CreekApr 13, 2023 10:21AM ● By Pam Kessler
As the sun rises over Rudgear Park, the quiet streets come alive with the familiar sound of "pop, pop, pop" on nearby courts. Pickleball, America's fastest-growing sport, has taken the nation by storm, with an estimated 36.5 million players. According to the Association of Pickleball Professionals, in just three years, its popularity has skyrocketed by 158.6%.
But it’s not all fun and games. In this suburban Walnut Creek neighborhood, the surge in pickleball's popularity is stirring up a neighborhood and recreational showdown. The pickleball courts on Dapplegray Lane have become the epicenter of a dispute between neighbors and players over the noise generated by the game.
“The pop, pop, pop sound is unending,” explained a nearby neighbor. “The city and club need to find a new, non-residential location for pickleball games. It’s destroying our quality of life.” Others describe the endless stream of people, parked cars, blocked garbage cans, and even lost real estate deals.
Home to the thriving Walnut Creek Pickleball Club, now boasting close to 800 members, the Dapplegray courts have become a hub of activity with players of all ages and skill levels flocking to the courts. Enthusiastic players engage in spirited matches, cheered on by fellow club members and spectators.
From Phoenix to Philadelphia, cities around the country are facing similar conflicts. Some, like Walnut Creek, are limiting hours of play as a temporary measure to appease the growing chorus of neighbors who want immediate relief from the chaos. However, finding a permanent solution that satisfies all parties is proving complex and contentious.
“People are passionate on all sides of this issue,” Arts & Recreation Director, Kevin Safine, told the PROS Commission Monday night. “With scarce resources, people have vested interests from the pickleball side, from the tennis side, from the neighborhood side, and from the community side. If it was easy to find a solution, it would be done.”
In a report presented to the commission, Safine outlined two potential locations the "Pickleball Task Force" had identified to convert or construct new courts, both with a hefty price tag.
Passions ran high as community members voiced their opinions on potential solutions. While pickleball players pushed for wrapping the Rudgear Park tennis courts on Stewart Avenue with soundproofing material to mitigate noise, other speakers advocated for constructing new courts at Heather Farm Park, away from residential areas.
The Walnut Creek Racquetball Club expressed concerns about the impact giving up courts at Heather Farm will have on their 1200-member tennis community. “We had to wait 30 years to get tennis courts at Heather Farm,” said club Vice President Tammie Snyder. “Another 20 to get lights. One of the things the pickleball players do not seem to understand is that if they take our courts, where are the tennis players going to play?”
As the debate continues, the task force continues to navigate the delicate balance between meeting the demands of different sports and maintaining the peace and harmony of Walnut Creek neighborhoods. City staff estimates a final recommendation will be made by June, but with a capital project of this magnitude, construction of new pickleball courts will require city council approval. Stay tuned.