Noisy. Intrusive. Annoying.
That’s how Wellesley resident John Maccini describes the sound of pickleball being played at Sprague Fields near his home.
“You have no idea how annoying pickleball can be,” Maccini said in a phone interview. “It’s loud, and it’s repetitive. I can’t sit on my porch and read anymore. It’s totally stressful. My quality of life has been ruined.”
He’s not the only one complaining. Other neighbors who live near the Sprague courts are also frustrated, so much so that the Wellesley Recreation Commission held a hearing Friday morning to hear grievances about the paddle sport, which continues to grow in popularity.
Or maybe that should be “pop”ularity? A pickleball match is marked by “pop-pop-pop” sounds as the perforated plastic ball is thwacked back and forth over a net by paddle-wielding players.
Pickleball is a relatively young sport, only invented in 1965. But what began as a casual backyard game has mushroomed into a sport played all over the country on badminton-sized courts.
Today pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the United States. Its popularity skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with participation nearly doubling from 4.8 million players in 2021 to 8.9 million in 2022, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
As the sport has grown, so has the number of places to play. According to USA Pickleball, the sport’s national governing body, the known places to play pickleball totaled 10,724 at the end of 2022, an increase of approximately 130 new locations per month.
Wellesley is not the only community dealing with pickleball noise complaints. Last June some residents in Provincetown expressed their displeasure with the sounds of the sport.
“It is driving us nuts,” one resident told the Select Board, according to a report in the Provincetown Independent.
The Wall Street Journal reported a similar situation on Cape Cod in June, after residents who live near public pickleball courts in Falmouth filed a lawsuit against the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, claiming that pickleball violates town bylaws that prohibit “injurious and obnoxious noise levels.”
Rob Mastroianni, one of the Falmouth residents who filed the lawsuit, said a court date is scheduled for January 2024 and a temporary injunction halts pickleball playing at those courts until then.
“It’s simply the noise. It’s a percussive popping noise,” Mastroianni said in a phone interview.
Mastroianni said he ultimately sold his house and moved because he couldn’t deal with the constant noise anymore. He said 50 to 60 people would show up at the pickleball courts with beach chairs and play all day long.
“I moved to North Falmouth,” he said.
Mastroianni groused that players’ enthusiasm for the sport is almost cultish.
“These pickleballers are so evangelistic,” he said. “It’s like you can’t take away their right to play pickleball. ... They’re such a powerful group. They’re a very vocal group.”
Mastroianni said the battle was “awful.”
“I’m like a pariah. Because I’m shutting down’ people’s fun,” he said. “We’re not against pickleballers.”
Maccini, who lives near the courts in Wellesley, said the sound of a pickleball being hit is much louder than a tennis ball.
“It’s like a sharp snap, and more rapid,” Maccini said.
Wellesley resident Chris Garris also lives near the Sprague courts. He can hear the noise of pickleball games in his home even when the windows are shut.
“In the summertime, it’s mostly the ball,” Garris said in a phone interview. “You hear a sharp ping, and it happens all day, from sunup to sundown.”
Garris says the pickleball courts should be moved to a different location.
“They should put the courts further away from homes, in an area away from residents,” he said.
Matt Chin, Wellesley’s recreation director, said when it comes to finding a solution to the town’s pickleball issue, “it’s not for me to decide.”
That’s why the five elected members of the Wellesley Recreation Commission held the hearing on Friday, he said.
Maccini and Garris were among several people who spoke at Friday’s hearing, saying that noisy pickleball matches are affecting the quality of life in their neighborhood.
Garris likened the sound to a “perpetual game of ping pong.” Another resident compared the constant noise to a “garbage truck backing up all day long.”
There were pickleball supporters at the hearing. Kathy Trumbull, a member of the Wellesley Council on Aging’s board of directors, described herself as an active pickleball player who loves the game.
Pickleball is a great way to exercise and build community, she said, and it’s only becoming more popular.
“The game is spreading,” Trumbull noted.
Trumbull suggested the town should look at other sites — such as the parking lot at Morses Pond — as potential locations for new pickleball courts.
The commission did not make any decisions Friday, but said they would take everyone’s comments under advisement and put pickleball on the agenda of an upcoming meeting for further discussion.