Is Vail pickleball causing a racket?
VAIL — Pickleball proponents met with the Town Council at Golden Peak on Tuesday to show them their sport and the noise it puts out. After spending 30 minutes measuring the sound output the sport's whiffle ball makes when it hits a paddle, and the celebrations that occur when that ball hits (or misses) its mark, the police found it to be within the noise limit deemed acceptable by town code. "Everything has been in range for what it is supposed to be," said Mike Bindle, with the Vail Police Department. "The only time it went above was when the bus came by." According to town code, any noise which exceeds the allowable noise limit by 10 decibels must be sustained for one minute or more in order to be considered a violation, so the town of Vail buses won't be pulled off the streets as a result of their trips through the residential areas near Golden Peak. "All the ranges were right where they're supposed to be for residential," Bindle said. 'RUINS THE EXPERIENCE' The fact-finding work was initiated after residents complained about an incipient effort to replace the tennis court at Golden Peak with pickleball courts. "Noise level is high and ball/paddle pitch very disturbing — my balconies face the courts," wrote Mark and Noelle Mahoney, who own units in the Vail Trails East building. "Decorum is loud and unrefined." The complaints have not been limited to noise and an elimination of tennis courts, however. "Any expansion of pickleball is unimaginable!" wrote Marty Suarez, a property owner in the nearby All Seasons condos. "Noise, parking, trash and lack of bathroom facilities has created numerous problems for all the owners in this area." The Golden Peak facility currently has one tennis court and four pickleball courts. Pickleball players at Golden Peak can outnumber tennis players by 10-to-1 on any given day, but that's part of the problem, says pickleball opponent Damon Redd. "We played one time while (pickleball players) were out there and said never again," he said. "Playing next to pickleballers ruins the experience." COUNCIL IN A PICKLE Vail council members and staff were among those playing pickleball Tuesday as Bindle measured the noise output. "It seems a little more social (than tennis)," said council member Jenn Bruno. Council member Margaret Rogers said she was loving the sport. "If you play a couple games and there's people waiting, you sit out and somebody else plays," Rogers said. "So it's not like 'I've got my court for an hour, no cutting in.'" Councilman Dale Bugby said the doubles format of pickleball makes it a little more fun than tennis. "It's hard to get a good doubles match in tennis where all four people can play at the same level," he said. FAST GROWING SPORT The sport has been called a cross between tennis and its little brother, table tennis. There are kids leagues, but spend any time around the Golden Peak pickleball courts and you'll see it's their grandparents who have really taken to the sport. It's often called the fastest growing sport in America, with legions of tennis players switching to pickleball as age catches up with them. "I'm now full of arthritis, so I can't run and play tennis anymore," said Vail resident Joe Rink, 79, who was once a nationally ranked tennis player. "When I found (pickleball) … I found something other than golf to do." Jerry Stevens was working at the Vail Tennis Center in Ford Park when he was approached by Vail Recreation District Executive Director Mike Ortiz to help organize a pickleball league. "We had over 140 people sign up over the course of last summer," he said. "And that was just with me coming out three days a week for a couple hours in the morning." Stevens has been in Vail a long time. He helped start the Vail Rugby Club in the early '70s. "I've never seen anything that's taken off this quickly," he said. "Racket sports generally are flat, but pickleball is growing. All ages and all skill levels can enjoy it." FREE ACCESS When tennis players say the Golden Peak venue is currently not ideal for pickleball, they don't always receive an argument from pickleball players on that point. The Golden Peak courts have humps and bumps, and the players facing west have to contend with limited space and a fence against their backs. Last year, after the Golden Peak courts were resurfaced to accommodate pickleball, dangerous cracks started forming on the courts just weeks after the resurface. Complaints from the pickleball community are frequent. Stevens says pickleball's popularity in Golden Peak has come despite the less-than-ideal playing field. "You can imagine if they redo this and put in six nice, new courts in and have a nice facility, it's going to be popular," Stevens said. Opponents say if that happens, then there will be no more free access to tennis in Vail, as the tennis center at Ford Park charges a fee. Vail Director of Communications Suzanne Silverthorn said that's true at the moment, but only because the tennis courts at Booth Creek are closed awaiting renovation. "The two new courts at Booth Creek will come on line in late summer/early fall of next year," Silverthorn wrote in an email to the Vail Daily. "The courts will be free at Booth Creek Park." The Vail Town Council will continue to examine the issue and is welcoming feedback from the community. To solicit your comments, visit vailgov.com.