We’re about three quarters through 2023, and in the last 6 months, the pickleball industry has quietly but steadily sought solutions to some of the sport’s biggest challenges.
…Not that you’d really notice it. At the same time, story after story about the rise of injuries, the lack of available courts, or the inevitable noise complaints keep popping up across media headlines.
Despite negative headlines, industry thought leaders have identified the full scope of the issues and posed thoughtful solutions:
You may remember the swarm of media outlets covering the same basic story this year: that pickleball can cause injuries.
Sigh. Every sport can cause injury, we're just hearing more about pickleball-related ones now because more people are playing than ever before.
But to everyone's point: if you aren’t warming up your body before you play, are you even a pickleball player?
Did we shame you there? Good. In order to prevent injury, we have to make warm-ups part of the culture.
Pros like Lea Jansen are helping, too, by drawing lines around how they are willing to compete for the sake of their health.
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Lack of Courts
Current research says $900 million in construction costs are needed to keep up with current and future pickleball court demand.
The most obvious question when faced with such a large number: how can we possibly pay for that?
Investment firms seeking a quick return via pickleball's boom will no doubt cover some of the cost.
Consider PickleMall, the venture backed by Major League Pickleball owner (and billionaire) Steve Kuhn:
The breakthrough solution aims to solve two problems at once: filling empty mall space around the country while filling it with tons of high quality courts that players want.
Solutions like this will grow the number of available courts exponentially over the next few years, so long as investors continue to lure long-term clientele.
Noise & zoning
Good news: we've established the magic number for what constitutes too much pickleball noise: 70 decibels. That’s the volume municipalities, private investors, and wealthy neighbors need to keep in mind when they consider court placement.
Will average pickleball noise reach and/or surpass 70 decibels at the nearest home if a court is placed nearby?
To determine that, they’ll also need to measure noise at current courts from different distances, but this can all be sorted in half a day’s work. Either a location is appropriate for pickleball, or it isn’t. At least now, we have a reliable marker.
We've known for years now that pickleball has a noise problem. But to call it just a noise issue is misleading. It's really a zoning issue.
That magic number above is good to know, but it's useless if towns, municipalities, and other decision makers don't utilize it to zone courts sufficiently far enough from residences.
While we're happy to see towns take serious interest in providing courts to meet public demand, it's clear that demand also puts pressure on councils across the country to make impromptu court placement decisions...and that can't continue if pickleball is going to solve its noise issue.
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