Pickleball is rising in popularity and courts are packed in cities across Colorado, but neighbors’ noise complaints could limit the sport’s growth.
DENVER — Denver Parks and Recreation will remove pickleball from Congress Park starting next week and is abandoning plans to build a pickleball court at Sloan’s Lake Park over concerns about the game’s noise.
It’s the latest move to deal with noise problems related to the burgeoning sport since the city council in Centennial passed a six-month moratorium on new builds of outdoor courts in that city.
The move comes after neighbors near the Congress Park court complained to the city about violations of the city’s noise ordinance. An inspector found sound levels relating to pickleball at over 70 decibels in some residential locations near the court, according to records obtained by 9NEWS. City ordinance only allows for 55 decibels.
“Clearly at these homes along this site….it is violating the noise ordinance,” Denver Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Scott Gilmore said.
The court planned for Sloan’s Lake Park is only about 100 feet away from homes, Gilmore said. He said the current guidance he’s gotten from researching sound abatement found pickleball courts need to be 500 feet or further away from homes.
The Congress Park court and surrounding tennis courts were already slated to close for a maintenance project on April 3, which includes abatement of asbestos in the concrete. Denver Parks and Recreation originally planned to move the pickleball courts away from homes along Detroit Street and further into the park but abandoned that plan after researching the noise issue.
9NEWS obtained some of the complaints about the park. Neighbors complained about parking, trash, players having door dash and alcohol delivered to adjacent homes and noise as well.
“It has taken my true joy of living on the park away as now the noise and continuous congestion has become a true nuisance to my family and me,” one neighbor wrote in a complaint to 311.
“I am saddened to write you today that the noise emanating from pickleball played in this beloved park has become illegally loud, unhealthy — and simply untenable,” another neighbor wrote.
Betsy Rumely, who lives further down the block, told 9NEWS the sound has made it unpleasant to sit in her backyard. The sound inspector found the pickleball noise near her home violated the ordinance.
“I really love the idea of pickleball and people getting together and having fun and creating community, but it’s very hard to live near it,” Rumely said. “I wish there were more things where people would get together and have fun and create community. It’s just this is the wrong place for it.”
The complaints reached Gilmore.
“It would be irresponsible for me to bring back pickleball to this park, but let’s find the right park to put pickleball so pickleballers would have their own space,” he said.
More than 1,400 people belong to the Congress Park Pickleball Club on Facebook. The group’s chairman, Marc Nelson, said people come from all over the metro area to play on the small court.
“This is a new thing that’s kind of sprouted out since the pandemic and these courts were here,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the large group tries to police itself, once banning someone who consistently parked illegally in the alley next to the court.
“We have some boisterous pickleball players… we try [to tell them] ‘Hey, remember our neighbors.’”
He said the small court has created a community of people who love the sport and bond over it.
“Pickleball is legitimately the fastest growing sport,” Nelson said. “If the continual rate of growth continues…by 2040 there will be 40 million people playing pickleball which will surpass any sport in the US.”
Nelson acknowledges the game is loud and said his club has even offered to crowdfund for sound barriers to ease the noise to the nearby neighbors.
“The paddles that we use are carbon fiber and the ball it just has a 71-decibel sound, where the minimum level’s like 61,” he said. “So, it is a little bit of a pop to it.”
“I get constant updates from my watch that I’m in a loud environment,” he said.
Nelson said the issues at Congress Park show the demand for a bigger pickleball facility.
“I would love a facility somewhere where there’s parking and what not,” he said.
At the time 9NEWS spoke to Nelson, the announcement about the permanent closure hadn’t been made. He argued the noise level, while above the city ordinance, is not unlike an ambulance or other noise that’s part of city life.
“There’s good and bad for everything,” he said. “There’s 80 people getting exercise and building the community and getting to know each other and living in the world we want to live in instead of 80 strangers not doing anything.”
Nelson said the group will still play and continue to push the city to create more options.
Gilmore said he isn’t shutting the door on pickleball altogether. He said Burns Park near the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Alameda Avenue would be one option. The city is also looking at another park in the Central Park neighborhood. He said these parks would solely be for pickleball facilities.
Gilmore is also forming a Pickleball Advisory Committee made up of players and neighbors near courts to work through potential problems.
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