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Not Long After Building New Pickleball Courts, One British Columbia Town Shuts Them Down

by Erik Tice on

Earlier this week, less than 50 miles away from the birthplace of pickleball, the District Council of North Saanish (British Columbia) permanently closed four relatively new pickleball courts at Wain Park.

There are now eight pickleball courts in the Vancouver Island district parks that are no longer in use due to noise complaints.

The four-court outdoor complex in North Sannish was built in 2017 at a cost of between $150-200k. The Saanich Peninsula Pickleball Association, which represents 170 players, says walking away from it now is hardly a good use of tax dollars.

On April 29th, Mayor Peter Jones made a motion to permanently close the pickleball courts at Wain Park. The motion passed 5-1 in Council and on Tuesday, the courts were closed with locks.

"It never had to get to this point, but it has now," North Saanich Mayor Peter Jones told the Capital Daily.

If you are interested, you can listen to the arguments for and against the motion in the livestreamed council meeting

Background Facts

  • The same Council that closed the pickleball courts actually approved the courts’ installation in 2017.
  • The only one to vote no on the motion, Jack McLintock, was also on the Council in 2017 and voted to initially approve the courts.
  • Noise mitigating alternatives were provided to the Council in the April 29th meeting, but the noise reduction options were created in March of 2022 and were outdated.
  • The Peninsula Community Pickleball Club (PCPC) wrote a letter to the Council outlining their wishes to work together to come up with a mutually agreed upon solution, including more organized play – this was not even discussed in the Council’s meeting.
  • There are five residential houses very near the pickleball courts on Birch Road, which are definitely within 200 feet of the courts.

Location, Location, Location

Pickleball Noise

Warning: DO NOT Google how far away from residential structures pickleball courts should be. Scrolling through six different articles, I have read anywhere between 150 feet and 600 feet. Either way, these structures are definitely not outside of those parameters.

The Wain Park courts are definitely closer than 150 feet to those five houses. According to a leading pickleball noise expert – Bob Unetich at Pickleball Sound Mitigation – pickleballs would sound like freeway traffic for these five houses very near the park. Here is a lengthy blog post from Unetich all about pickleball noise. Warning - this is for the nerds only, as it is very much detailed information.

Local Player Reactions

"It’s really shocked everyone that plays, it really came right out of the blue," said Frank Gee, a local pickleball regular. There was talk about getting some sound reduction tarping that goes around … and I thought that was the direction they were going to go, I think all of us thought that was the direction they were going to go and then all of a sudden: boom."

Another local player, Caitlyn Wolski, started a petition to keep the courts open and was able to obtain over 1,600 signatures.

"The pickleball courts at Wain Park in North Saanich are a valuable community asset frequented by hundreds of local citizens," Wolski told the Times Colonist. "These courts serve as an essential outdoor recreation facility, promoting health and wellness within our community. Closing the most popular outdoor recreation facility in the history of North Saanich not only deprives many people of their preferred recreation venue but also is a huge waste of taxpayer’s money."

Moving Forward

I find it ironic that the Mayor found it within the District’s purview to close down the courts immediately, while also putting the onus on the Peninsula Recreation Commission (PRC) to find suitable alternatives. 

It seems alternative options to allow for limited play over the summer could have helped local pickleballers in the interim before the PRC can produce alternative locations/options.

For now, local pickleballers will have to find alternative places to play and hope the PRC is able to build alternative facilities, or hope the District Council revisits the subject.

Erik Tice

Erik Tice

Erik produces content for The Dink related to pro and collegiate pickleball. He is an avid watcher of pickleball and became passionate about the sport in early 2022.

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