Womens Racquetball

Battle on a pickleball court in the Walnut Creek neighborhood

Pickleball has been the fastest growing sport in the United States since 2019. But the outdoor paddle game on the court is also drawing a lot of criticism.

In Walnut Creek, this type of court battle is part of a national craze.

“I discovered pickleball about four years ago, and a light went on in my head,” said player Lisa Klein.

Armed with paddles and what appears to be a wiffle ball, men and women of all ages compete.

“It’s like ping pong, it’s like tennis, it’s like racquetball, all mixed together,” said Cindy Gershen, secretary of the Walnut Creek Pickleball Club.

From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., members hold a form of daily sports worship at Rudgear Park in Walnut Creek.

“It’s just such an open place of levels, age groups, races, economic backgrounds,” Klein said.

The city converted several tennis courts to pickleball courts six years ago due to growing demand. And then in 2020, COVID hit, pushing more people out of gyms and indoor recreation spaces, and into parks, like this.

But this competition creates a problem with the surrounding neighbors.

Many complain about the noise of paddles, congested street parking and the influx of people that make this legal action untenable.

“Overall it’s as loud as a regular park experience,” player Derric Haynie said.

In a statement to KTVU, the city’s communications manager said, “One of the considerations (to settle the impasse) was to move pickleball to the city gymnasium on weekdays while a more appropriate to play is identified.”

But some players said the shutdown would cost more than just a drill.

Cindy Gershen’s husband died early in the COVID pandemic. The daily game here helped her out of a deep depression.

“Closing us is like taking my heart away, you know?” she said, holding back tears.

WCPC is considering paying for an acoustic wrap around the pitch fence to reduce noise.

Other players say a different, softer ball might help. Players and neighbors have a chance to weigh in at a city council meeting on Tuesday night, on the fashionable game threatening suburban tranquility.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station’s South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter @JesseKTVU or Instagram @jessegontv.