Pickleball needs a home

Starting in May, myself, my wife and about 400 other pickleballers will begin playing outside again and, most unfortunately, upsetting neighbours living close to where we are required to play. This is not our choice. We have no option but to play where Coldstream, Vernon and the regional district paint lines for eight pickleball courts in the space occupied by two existing tennis courts.

That inflicts the sound of eight pickleballs upon neighbouring homes rather than just sound of one or two tennis balls and the noise made by maybe only two or four tennis players versus that made by upwards of 60-plus pickleballers, of whom 32 are actively playing at any one time. Naturally, parking is insufficient for so many players on site so it spills over to adjacent street parking spots and that upsets some local residents as well.

Unfortunately, the sound of paddles smacking a pickleball is one that carries as does the kibitzing and cheering that is a component of all sports both competitive and recreational.

It is compounded in the case of pickleball due to the sports’ popularity and how many courts we need to accommodate all our players, many of whom are senior citizens interested in keeping active with a sport that is less demanding upon aging bodies than other racquet sports.

There are more than 300 active members in the Vernon Pickleball Club and perhaps more than 400 local players in Greater Vernon, plus visitors from nearby communities and elsewhere who play here from time to time.

Pickleball is addictive and players take their gear on vacation with them or attend tournaments put on elsewhere. Lots of our local pickleballers play in Kelowna, Penticton, Salmon Arm, Kamloops and other communities with dedicated pickleball courts.

It’s a real treat to play on courts where you are not sardined in with both balls and players caroming in from other, too-close-together-courts. It’s much less distracting, more fun and a lot safer too.

To date, the Vernon Pickleball Club has raised about $25,000 towards dedicated, properly designed pickleball courts. We thought this would be an ideal time to build them because Vernon is hosting the BC 55 Plus Games this September. More than 600 pickleballers from all over the province will descend upon us.

For your information, pickleball is not getting a free ride. If anything, it is a cash cow for local governments.

The VPC had more than 8000 players use the courts in the Priest Valley Gym this winter, for which it paid $18,000 in rental fees.

That’s not counting fees to play in evenings at Vernon Christian School, Okanagan Elementary School and the Lavington Community Centre. As well, the VPA paid $6000 to play on outside courts last summer.

We would much rather that money went to fund and support dedicated pickleball courts.

It’s a shame that so many senior citizens and other responsible adults keen on keeping fit and active have been relegated to playing pickleball in locales that are substandard and located where they detract from the quality of life of other citizens living nearby.

Jim Bodkin