How to Keep a Lid on Pickleball Noise

How to Keep a Lid on Pickleball Noise

Pickleball is among Canada’s fastest-growing sports. It’s also one of the noisiest. During gameplay, the hard plastic ball and composite paddle make a distinctive, hollow pop, an impulsive sound that reverberates across the court and through the neighbourhood. As municipalities try to meet the demand for the sport, they find themselves, well, in a pickle: They want to build new courts and keep a lid on all that impulsive, annoying pickleball noise.

At BKL, we can help you assess noise impacts from pickleball courts and find effective, location-specific mitigation solutions. Keep reading to learn more. Or contact us today!

Pickleball: What Is It?

A paddle sport with basic rules, pickleball brings together elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. Pickleball can be fun for players of all ages and skill levels, from beginners to experts, and this has led to its rising popularity.

To meet the demand for playing space, some municipalities have proposed converting existing tennis courts into pickleball courts. Others have looked at building new pickleball courts in parks.

Like tennis courts, pickleball courts are usually open from sunrise to sunset. Unlike tennis, pickleball uses a hard plastic ball and a composite paddle. Every time the ball contacts the paddle or playing surface, it pops. Loudly. Imagine a ping-pong ball plugged into a guitar amp. Moreover, the sound occurs within the mid-range frequency, the range most audible to the human ear. In general, sound reflects off hard surfaces, like the court or any reflective walls nearby, which increases the noise level. With this in mind, it’s easy to see how a casual game of pickleball can sour residents at nearby homes.

What is Noise?

Noise is generally defined as unwanted sound that carries no useful information. Noise tends to interfere with activities or the ability to receive and interpret useful sound. The response to noise is subjective and depends on other factors such as the absolute level of sound, the time of day, local attitudes to the premises, and expectations for quiet by the individual.

The intrusiveness and potential disturbance caused by noise depends largely upon the background noise level that exists when the noise occurs. Pickleball noise may not reach the magnitude of a slapshot ringing off the boards, but in contrast to the background noise at its location—for pickleball, that’s usually a quiet suburban area surrounding the park—the noise may still negatively impact the neighbouring residences.

Assessing Pickleball Noise

During pickleball games, the primary noise is the impact sound of the ball contacting the racquet or court surface. This event generates a short increase in sound pressure levels that is best represented by the maximum sound pressure level (Lmax) rather than the average equivalent sound pressure level (Leq). We can consider the L90, the sound pressure level exceeded 90% of the time, as the typical background sound level. The increase in the sound pressure level above the background sound pressure level due to the intrusive sound is called the noise emergence.

When we work with local municipalities to analyze pickleball noise at proposed court locations, one of our goals is to determine the noise emergence from the ambient (background) noise levels. To do this, we compare the background level L90 to the maximum level of an average pickleball noise event, Lmax, at the closest residential receptors.

We then develop a 3D noise model based on the proposed pickleball court location and the surrounding noise-sensitive receptors (such as single-family homes). The model accounts for the relative height of the noise sources, reflective surfaces, ground type, and terrain heights. We use noise measurements from actual pickleball games to calibrate the pickleball noise source in the model.

Using the 3D noise model, we are able to comment on possible mitigation, like a noise wall, as required for the proposed courts. The effectiveness of a noise wall is a function of a number of variables including whether the line of sight between the source and receptor is interrupted, how close the wall is to the source or the receptors, and the type of intervening terrain between the source and receptor.

A Few Examples of Guidelines

As Pickleball has become popular, various jurisdictions have set guidelines for courts. Noise decreases with distance, so the jurisdictions with guidelines have based them on this principle.

For example, in Port Moody, BC, any court within 350 feet (107 metres) of residential properties usually requires noise abatement. When a court is within 150 feet (46 metres), significant abatement is required.

In Saanich, BC, abatement can be required for any pickleball court within 500 feet (152 metres) of homes, and major abatement is necessary for courts within 164 feet (50 metres). The municipality also requires a professional acoustical review for courts within 182 metres of residential property.

In Nevada County, CA, noise mitigation is required for any court that’s within 250 feet (76 metres) of homes. The County’s guideline also specifies detailed criteria for the abatement.

Location, Location, Location

With pickleball being a relatively recent recreation trend, most municipalities lack specific guidelines for building new courts or converting tennis courts. Noise decreases with distance, so the jurisdictions with guidelines have based them on this principle. However, many other variables influence the noise impact of pickleball courts such as existing noise sources and their diurnal patterns, terrain height of the pickleball court and its environment terrain, ground type and type of buildings around the courts, and other variables. Since every site is different, there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all mitigation solution.

If you are considering a new pickleball court or converting an existing court, get in touch with us at BKL. We can help you select the best location for the court and, if needed, recommend mitigation solutions that work for that location.

Written by Yihan Yanglou

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