Column: Civil war on court leaves facilities, board, players in 'pickle'

So you happen to live in a nice subdivision that, up until recently, might have a recreational area boasting a nice club house, an outdoor and maybe indoor swimming pool, a couple tennis courts, playground for kids, picnic area and grassy area to enjoy. Before you made the decision to buy your home you checked all of this out and decided this was the place for you and your family.

There was no small print that said things would radically change some time in the future - as long as you paid your homeowners dues - which you knew included taking care of the recreational area as well as the common areas of the subdivision and for others even the street upgrades and repair.

The subdivision has a board of members who represent the homeowners and they do their best to oversee the HOA and spend the money wisely in taking care of business; dealing with problems and making sure all residents fall in line with what the CC&R's state. Will there ever be any grey areas to deal with? As a board member you hope not, but then comes this problem about a new game called Pickleball that's caught on fire around the country, especially with the 55 and older crowd.

Without spending too much money some of these subdivisions decide to use the tennis courts as double duty - and line anywhere from 2 to 4 courts of pickleball on each tennis court they have. This makes the pickleball players happy (for a while) and then slowly but surely some problems arise.

Noise.

The clack, clack, clack of wood or graphite rackets hitting a plastic ball is loud and to many annoying. If there's a residence within 400 feet of the site many homeowners are complaining of the loud, constant sound. "It's akin to a toothache that won't go away," one of the locals told their recreational management supervisor. Sixty decibels are normally the set limit for local government and pickleball is right there; some pickleball facilities have been shut down due to that reason alone.

Tennis reservation infringement.

If you happen to have a subdivision that built a couple tennis courts - the people who bought in to that subdivision made a decision to purchase based on the amenities that that were outlined, stated, built and visibly there. So, there would be a definite expectation that unless 51 percent of the property owners voted to make a change, those amenities would stay as they are.

But, without much thought, when a new sport like pickleball comes about and a group asks if lines can be painted on the tennis courts and used around the times the tennis players are not using the courts, who would give it much thought to say anything but yes?

And then that takes place and everyone is pretty pleased with themselves. More people are getting great exercise, fostering better health, increased use of the facility as well as positive social interaction.

Until, the pickleball players want to take some of the prime time - then things begin to turn a bit ugly. And why should the tennis players who bought their property knowing what the terms were have to now change their lives for something that wasn't in the rules when they signed on? This isn't a private club this is their subdivision, they were just nice enough to help the pickleball players out and now it's being used against them.

If the pickleball players turned this situation around I'm pretty sure they'd feel the same way - and it really doesn't have anything to do with how many tennis or pickleball players there are.

So what's the solution?

How about build 4 pickleball courts that stand alone? The land needed is about the size of one tennis court and the cost about $75,000.

As far as our public tennis courts in the Prescott area being changed from tennis to pickleball, I believe that would be a shame. Pickleball needs its own area, hopefully in a spot that already has restrooms, parking, utilities and enough distance from homes and businesses that wouldn't have a noise problem, just like most recreational areas already abide and have planned for.

Private facilities can certainly do as they please, but before they spend too much money they'd better know if they're surrounded by homes problems with pickleball could come to haunt them.

I like the game ... it has a real place in the world of sports and I'd be one of the first ones to jump in and play it, many of my friends do as well.

Let's work on developing a well thought-out location to place a public facility with room to grow here in the Prescott area, without taking what seems like the easy, short-sighted way out and grabbing a tennis court and trying to convert it.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the tennis and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@q.com.