Pickleball has a noise problem. Who is going to fix it?

Photography by Zach Bauman.

As we know, pickleball’s popularity is exploding across the country, and with Overland Park recently named the nation’s most pickleball-obsessed city, nowhere is pickleball mania more clear than right here in the metro.

For KC pickleball fanatics, that’s welcome news. But for others, it’s hard to hear. As more and more pickleball courts pop up around the city, neighboring residents are voicing their frustration over the noise produced when the balls hit the paddles and the ground. And they aren’t alone. Across the U.S., those living near pickleball courts have been working to limit pickleball play, and in some cases, they’ve pursued legal action.

The game’s small paddles and wiffle balls are part of what make the game so enticing for players, but it’s also what makes it so loud. According to the online pickleball magazine Pickler, the sound of the ball hitting the paddle can reach 70 decibels. This is almost twice as loud as the sound of a tennis ball hitting a racket, which can reach 40 decibels.

Reachel Beichley, a pickleball player who lives in Prairie Village, empathizes with neighbors’ noise complaints. “I can understand that someone would not be particularly happy with the pickleball noises in the early morning or late evening because it is louder than tennis,” Beichley says. However, she hopes the complaints won’t cause Prairie Village to decide to remove its courts. “I hope [Prairie Village] will try to find other ways to mitigate the noise issues before they just do away with it.” 

At a Prairie Village City Council meeting in early August, Mayor Eric Mikkelson said the city is looking into “sound dampening curtains” for the Windsor Park courts. According to one city engineer’s study in Florida, the curtains, which are hooked to metal fences surrounding the courts, reduce game play noise by more than 10 decibels, which, to the human ear, sounds about half as loud as noise emitted without the curtain.

Photography by Zach Bauman

Mission Woods Mayor Darrell Franklin and his wife Laurie Franklin filed a lawsuit in May 2022 against Mission Hills Country Club, asking the club move its pickleball courts further from their home, citing the noise from the game as inflicting “emotional distress,” court records state.

In the lawsuit, the Franklins asked that the club be mandated to move the courts 500 to 600 feet away from any home. According to a letter from the club sent to members in May obtained by the Kansas City Star, the club had already taken measures to lessen the noise emitted by the game, including an “acoustic barrier” that reduces sound, similar to the curtains Windsor Park is considering. As of July 2023, the lawsuit appears to have been dropped.

Ellen Yunger, another Kansas City resident and pickleball player, is actively trying to change city regulations to minimize the disruption caused by the game. “I love the game,” she says. “I also know the game well enough to know that it is super loud.”

Yunger’s main issue is not with pickleball clubs or organizations but with residents who build courts in their own backyards.

“It’s not appropriate for individual houses in neighborhoods,” she says. “It’s just too loud.” She notes that Mission Hills residents are required to notify neighbors if they are going to build a swimming pool, so it only makes sense they should be required to notify neighbors if they have plans to construct a pickleball court. Yunger is planning on attending the Mission Hills Planning Commission’s February meeting to begin the conversation about pickleball court guidelines and restrictions.

The Leawood City Council recently approved an amendment to the city’s development ordinance requiring setbacks and neighbor notifications along with evergreen landscaping that will screen neighbors’ view of pickleball courts for those wanting to build them in their backyards.

“People are super excited about [pickleball],” says Yunger, who also counts herself as a pickleball fan. “But the noise part is real.”  

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