PROVINCETOWN — How heated is the debate about the West End pickleball courts? If the swear words were left in everyone’s statements, this article would be two inches longer.
“I’m going to lose my mind,” said Ernest Martin of 19 Tremont St. “I can hear it with all my windows closed. I’m having dreams about pickleball.”
Martin is one of many neighbors irked by the noise coming from the new pickleball courts on Nickerson Street, which the recreation commission completed in July with a $50,000 grant from the community preservation committee.
Martin said the pitch of the plastic balls against the wooden paddles sounds like a hammer hitting a two-by-four. He cannot wait to go back to Manhattan in January to get some peace and quiet.
Judy Gold, a comedian who lives at 25 Tremont St., wrote to the recreation commission last month to say “the serenity and peace I counted on has now been drowned out by the loud and intrusive sounds of 12 hours a day of pickleball. I’m not only referring to the constant loud noise of the ball hitting the paddle, but also the screaming and yelling after each and every point. I have an apartment in New York City on Amsterdam Avenue, a major thoroughfare for buses, ambulances, police cars, fire trucks, and it is quieter there than in my home here in P’town.”
“Silence is now the exception, and the sound of pickleball is the norm,” wrote Barry Pike and Paul Carey of 25 Tremont St.
Pickleball was invented in 1965 and incorporates a ping-pong-like paddle on a badminton-sized court using a sort of tennis net. The area of play is smaller and the game less physically demanding than tennis, making it accessible to all ages. It has become the fastest growing sport in America, according to the Economist.
People dragged a portable pickleball net onto the basketball court at the Chelsea Earnest Playground during the pandemic. Hoping to support a healthy habit, the town recreation dept. completed striping of two pickleball courts there in July, said Recreation Director Brandon Motta. That is when attendance went from sparse to something else.
“We have had as many as 15 people waiting in line, early morning and after work,” Motta said.
On a Friday in late October, both courts on Nickerson Street were full, with four people waiting to play. In spite of battle lines drawn around them, those inside the fence were blissful. The courts are free, and everyone rotates in and out of multiple games, so there is no need to reserve a time, explained Linda Davis. You end up playing with complete strangers at all different skill levels. The result, Davis said, is community-building, fitness, and friendship.
“These two courts have brought people together,” Davis said.
Not long ago, Diane Sidorowicz hit what she described as the best shot of her life. “Oh my God!” she cried in delight.
“Oh my God,” came a sarcastic voice from somewhere in the neighborhood.
Sidorowicz recognized it as the voice of one of her neighbors. Sidorowicz and her partner, Lourdes Rodriguez, live nearby and love the game.
But “nobody wants to be a nuisance to neighbors,” Rodriguez said.
Pickleball is a sensation throughout the nation. Retirement communities from Florida to California have hired lawyers to hammer out compromises related to pickleball noise. Mashpee has engaged a consultant to come up with noise mitigation for the pickleball courts on Ashumet Road, said Town Manager Rodney Collins.
Another voice in the debate are basketball players, who feel pushed out of the Chelsea Earnest Playground.
In the spring, Christopher Millan, 12, of North Truro showed up to shoot some hoops.
“I got there first,” said Millan, who attends the Provincetown Schools. “And then these guys set up pickleball right in front of me while I was still playing.”
“I think they should build more basketball courts for the people in that area,” added his cousin, Derek Reyes Millan, 13, of Eastham.
On Oct. 13, the commission voted to reduce the pickleball hours. It had been allowed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; now the hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The winter weather may bring a reprieve so the recreation commission can come up a plan, which may include renovating the rundown tennis and pickleball courts at Motta Field — farther from neighbors’ ears. The estimated cost of that is $100,000, Motta said.
They are considering adding sound barriers to the chain link fence at Nickerson Street, which might reduce the noise by as much as 50 percent, if the barriers work as advertised. The cost is about $9,000, Motta said.
“It is inappropriate for anyone to condemn outdoor activities promoting community team-building activities, sports, and enjoyment of our seaside fresh air,” said Brandon Quesnell of the Provincetown Recreation Commission on Sept. 29. People who choose to live next to a playground should expect it, he added.
But, Motta told the Independent, “It is really loud.”