The increased popularity of pickleball in Wellesley has prompted various town bodies (Recreation, Natural Resources Commission, School Committee) to respond by making more court time available indoors and by carving out places to play on existing outdoor sports courts, such as at Sprague Fields and Perrin Park.
The rise of pickleball has presented territorial challenges, as the pickleball players share space previously used only for tennis or basketball, and the town has attempted to manage this situation by using an online reservation system.
The latest pickleball issue to get the Recreation Commission’s attention is the noise generated by the hard plastic balls smacking against the paddles, in addition to the players’ voices.
Neighbors of the pickleball courts at the Sprague Fields brought their concerns to the Wellesley Recreation Commission at its Oct. 13 meeting (about 4 minutes into the Wellesley Media recording). Neighbor John Maccini described the pickleball noise as being “very loud, it’s annoying, it’s intrusive, I can hear it in every room in my house. I’m sitting out on my new porch trying to read something and I really can’t concentrate.” He surveyed neighbors, including those the nearby townhouses, and found that the noise is also bothering them. “I don’t think anybody on those boards [Recreation, School Committee] had any idea how noisy pickleball is,” he said, adding his wish that the pickleball courts be moved to the Hunnewell tennis courts along Washington Street.
Recreation Commission Chair Paul Cramer said during the meeting the Wellesley High Athletic Department is against converting any Hunnewell courts for pickleball use, though notes this could be revisited.
Maccini also questioned why the pickleball courts were marked off on the southerly end of the courts area, closest to the homes, again suggesting that town bodies hadn’t really considered the potential for noise.
While this is yet another case where observers have said “You live near X, you should expect noise, traffic, or whatever,” it’s also true that pickleball has only emerged in recent years, long after some residents moved in. Some Sprague Fields neighbors feel under siege of late, with plans for a lacrosse rebound wall also generating opposition (though proponents claim the noise from this will be surprisingly unobtrusive).
The Recreation Commission picked up the pickleball noise issue at its Nov. 29 meeting (just before the 26-minute mark of the Wellesley Media recording) and said part of its response could involve restricting playing times, including using its online reservation system to make Sprague courts available only after others are filled.
But it also discussed possible use of a noise mitigation panels that could be hung from the fencing around a section of the courts. This has been used in Burlington, Mass., where the Recreation & Parks department told Cramer the noise abatement effort has worked pretty well. According to the vendor, the noise protection would work better for those on the same level as the courts as opposed to those uphill from them. The panels could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
“It does seem that pickleball in some way is here to stay,” said Cramer, suggesting longer-term plans should be developed. This could involve finding a spot for dedicated courts away from homes and maybe even exploring covered courts.
Recreation Director Matt Chin suggested another public hearing on this issue is likely to get input from neighbors and pickleball players.
Separately, Department of Public Works Director Dave Cohen mentioned during the Board of Public Works meeting on Dec. 13 that it is deferring by a year work to resurface the Hunnewell tennis courts as part of budget planning (in in light of rising costs to do the job). Related to that, Cohen said there has been discussion to repurpose the practice wall at the Hunnewell tennis courts as a separate pickleball court, but that no final decision had been made on this.
Here, by the way, is what Weston has planned on the pickleball court front.
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Joanna M Gilbert says
I walk by the tennis courts daily. I’ve got to say that pickleball is extremely loud and I’ve always wondered how it felt to have to hear that loud popping sound all day. Tennis is sooo much quieter.
John Maccini says
I am the neighbor mentioned in this article. Pickleball Noise has been measured by sound engineers and found to be +25 dB (x4) louder than the hardest hit tennis ball. The play is rapid and the sound carries a far distance. Please look at the posted photo of the Townhouses next to the New pickleball courts. Would you want to live there? When the Recreation Committee was petitioned by a special interest to place these courts over the existing tennis courts in 2021, I am sure that all the committee/commission members who voted in favor were unaware of the pickleball Noise controversy that is brought to nearby dwellings. Pickleball at Sprague runs from 8 am to dusk seven days a week. You may as well be living next to a shooting range. These courts should be moved to Hunnewell. Sound blankets are not going to work. The Recreation Committee chairman is not going to amend this. It is up to the Select Board to become involved and represent the neighborhoods that are effected by this noise which is what it is, noise.
Google pickleball noise, it’s a national problem. Not just some complaint from a cranky neighbor.
James Carroll says
I have to agree that the noise from Pickleball is intrusive, annoying and cannot be tuned out. Many municipalities across the country are currently receiving the same complaints from communities near these courts. Please relocate to an enclosed sound insulated building.
Jessica Wang says
The other two pickleball fields in wellesley, Schofield schools and Perrin Park only has two fields, however, a group more than 10 people often playing, so they only can choose Sprague, and constant making noise.
I am very close to the pickle ball courts.
The noise is incredibly loud when multiple games are being played. Definitely NOT something that could have been considered when we purchased our home. While I don’t support removing amy current tennis facilities at Hunnewell, the current impact to residents near Sprague is intolerable.
I think there should be dedicated Pickleball courts at least 300 ft away from residential buildings. Sound proofing won’t do much since all of the surrounding houses are multiple stories. Building dedicated facilities would be a better use of public funds and there would not be competition with Tennis players for the courts. The initial re-purposing of these courts was not well-thought out and the Town needs to move Pickleball play to indoor (Warren Building) or dedicated outdoor facilities away from homes.
Colleen Anderson says
I’d like to play tennis more if those group of people didn’t engross the court every minute.
Kevin Wilson says
Tennis space is taking away.
David T says
This is good example of a community issue that should be thoroughly vetted prior to taking action. There are always options. The people who reside near the courts should be listened to. They have a real problem that has been created not-of-their-own doing. Around town special-interest groups tend to push their agendas, disregarding the impact on local residents. The proposed high school track-lighting project is another example. These moments are opportunities to work out better compromises and solutions. We shouldn’t miss them.
John Maccini says
David T makes a good point. Where is Town oversight? I thought the Select Board, which we will go to again on this, had ultimate responsibility when it came to regulating Town Commissions or Committees. In the case of the Sprague pickleball courts, it appears that a certain Linden Association member who has influence in Town government petitioned for these courts. The Recreation Commission had a meeting in 2021 where upon they had a unanimous approval to paint over the tennis courts creating four picklball courts. Were these board members all aware of the Noise pickleball creates and intrudes into nearby dwellings? Now they want to hang expensive acoustic mats to mitigate noise. They won’t work. Just because you like sports and get to use town facilities does not mean you get to intrude on the peace and quiet of taxpaying nearby residents.
Josephine Okun says
I completely agree with you that the town should vet the projects better before taking actions that are irreversible in all practicality. More and more, special interest groups are promoting projects that benefit few in the name of private funding, infringing on property owners’ rights and costing taxpayers with upkeep in perpetuity. Areas around the Sprague, Wellesley Middle, and High School are densely populated and heavily used at full capacity already. The town should carefully consider existing problems like traffic, parking, and protecting a historical park and wetlands from encroachments to avoid unintended consequences like those at the Sprague pickleball court, especially when there is no way to cap the number of lights use at 20 nights.
K.E. Sullivan says
Pickleball is noisy and that is not only the opinion of abutters -just google it for info. The Town Recreation Dept and the NRC should have done homework on this before painting Pickleball lines on existing basketball courts in neighborhoods with abutting homes as many people (especially those directly affected) were/are not familiar with the sport. I suggest exploring the use of the asphalt parking lot at the old St James property for Pickleball courts. The parking lot is large and looks to be empty most of the time and the noise can be camouflaged by Rte 9 traffic. That location can also accommodate court expansion for the growing enthusiasts of the sport.The Taxpayers bought St James property for Town Recreation purposes. and for whatever reason the Town leased it out to a private concern. Perhaps the lease does not include use of the entire asphalt lot-does anyone know?. Negotiations with the existing(recreation) tenant should be explored instead of spending more Taxpayer money on “sound proofing” structures. Alternately, perhaps the Suburban Legend know as “The North Forty” should be considered as a site for this recreation use before the Town sells/leases that off as well.