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Denver closing pickleball courts at Eisenhower Park amid noise complaints

Eisenhower Park Pickleball Court Closing
Posted at 10:28 PM, Oct 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-21 00:28:55-04

DENVER — The City of Denver is closing the four outdoor pickleball courts at Eisenhower Park amid noise complaints from nearby residents — the latest courts to close as city leaders try to keep up with the exploding popularity of the sport.

A sign placed at the entrance to the courts will close on November 6, at which point city crews will turn the pickleball courts back into tennis courts, which they were formerly. Denver7 spoke to several players Friday morning, who said they were shocked by the announcement and very sad about losing the community that they have built there.

"I was shocked to see it," Steven Jones said of the closure announcement. "[The city] certainly got feedback from the homeowners in the area, but they didn't confer with us at all."

"I love this group of people," Leta Herrington agreed. "When I think about all of us dispersing, it just truly makes my heart sick."

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Scott Gilmore, the deputy executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation, told Denver7 that his hands are essentially tied. Noise limits, in this case 55 decibels, are set and monitored by the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, and it isn't up to him to ignore violations when they are raised through complaints. Gilmore said levels of 75 decibels are commonly reported from pickleball courts, leading to many complaints from residents nearby.

"The noise violation is the law, and we have to adhere to it," Gilmore told Denver7. "And you know, if a concert happens in the park and they're violating the noise ordinance, we have to tell them to turn the music down. That solves that. There's no way to turn pickleball down."

As it turns out, there may be ways to "turn pickleball down," so to speak, in the coming years. Denver7 looked into three of the potential solutions most often suggested to facilitate continued growth of pickleball, and how they apply at Eisenhower Park.

The first is the installation of noise mitigation treatments along the fencing of pickleball courts. Gilmore said this has been discussed by the city, but wasn't considered a viable option at Eisenhower because the fencing isn't tall enough to block the sound from two-story houses adjacent to the park. Even if taller fences were built, he said, the department isn't sure if the noise-mitigation treatments would reduce noise enough to make them worth the money.

Another possible solution coming down the pipe are new paddles and balls, designed to make less noise.

Carl Schmits, the managing director of facilities development and equipment standards for USA Pickleball, said the announcements of the first paddles developed for this purpose are expected to come within the next week.

"These paddles — with the new specification that we've released — essentially reduces the acoustic output by 50 percent of what you would normally see in a product sourced from Amazon or some place like that," Schmits said. "And so, it'll have a substantial impact when applied in some of these community courts."

Unlike current secondary products to reduce noise, such as slipcovers, Schmits said these new paddles and balls are designed to reduce noise without having any other noticeable impact on play. However, it is not yet clear when they will be widely available at multiple price points. Initial products are expected to be on the higher end of the price range.

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The third remaining option, from the city's perspective, is to build courts that are further away from homes. With the closure of the courts at Eisenhower Park in November, the city will have closed eight courts total and canceled the construction of eight planned courts. On the flipside, Gilmore pointed to six that have opened at MLK Park, and another six to 10 expected to be built in Lowry Park next year. The city is also in the process of identifying further spots for construction, adhering to a 600-foot radius away from homes.

When asked if the city would consider waiting to close courts until construction on new ones was completed, Gilmore said it was not.

"The neighbors have, you know, put up with it long enough," Gilmore said. "I appreciate them actually working with us to provide the ability to at least let the court stay open as long as they have."

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