Originally published February 2021
- The Issue
Some local individuals and groups are lobbying municipal governments to superimpose pickleball lines onto tennis courts and to convert tennis courts into pickleball courts. The dramatic growth of pickleball certainly warrants more public pickleball courts. However, adding pickleball lines to tennis courts is a conflict-laden, “Band-Aid” solution that reduces the enjoyment of both sports. Creating dedicated pickleball centres or hubs by resurfacing existing tennis courts often just creates the need for more tennis courts. We therefore urge municipalities to fully explore the possibility of creating entirely new pickleball hubs before they consider dual purposing or repurposing any tennis courts.
Tennis BC is a non-profit society with 78 member clubs including 19 clubs and associations that utilize public facilities. It represents 22,000 tournament, league, and club players and an estimated 900,000 occasional public court players.1 As the recognized provincial sports association for tennis, it advocates for all tennis players and tennis organizations throughout the province.
Pickleball has exploded onto the scene in North America in the past ten years. The Sports Fitness Industry Association reports that pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in North America with a 650 per cent increase in numbers between 2013 and 2019.2, 3 Between 2009 and 2017, the number of pickleball venues in North America grew from 420 to about 5000.4 This number rose to over 8000 by the end of 2019.5 There are about 75,000 pickleball player in Canada.6, 7 BC is a “hotspot” for the sport. Five of the ten “First Organizers of Pickleball in Canada” are British Columbians.8 In the past ten years, the sport has gained a large, enthusiastic following in many areas of our province.
Canada is also experiencing a “tennis boom.” This is due in large part to the success and popularity of Canada’s top professional players, including BC’s Vaskek Pospisil and Ontario’s Bianca Andreescu. Vasek helped to carry Canada’s Davis Cup team to its first ever World Final in 2019, and Binaca upset Serena Williams to win the 2019US Open Championships. Between 2016 and 2018, there was a 36 per cent increase in the number of Canadian tennis players who played at least one week during the summer, including a 32 per cent increase in the number of children under 12.9 There are about 2.9 million Canadian who play tennis at least once a week in season.1
Racquet sports can provide a lifetime of physical and mental health benefits to their participants. Tenns and pickleball develop coordination, balance, flexibility, strength, speed, endurance, and agility. These characteristics allow pickleball and tennis players to stay active, have fun, and maintain their quality of life well into their 80s and 90s. Pickleball is an exceptionally social sport.10, 11 Dr. Aaron Baggish (2020) notes that, “Social networking and the number and quality of social connections are emerging as huge determiners of health and longevity.”12 Likewise, a recently published study found that playing tennis extends a person’s life expectancy by 9.7 years overs someone with a sedentary lifestyle.13 Those who regularly play racquet sports are 56 per cent less likely than others to die at any given moment of any cause.14
Pickleball and tennis players derive healthier and happier lifestyles from their sports. Communities, in turn, benefit from more active and engaged citizens. Communities may also obtain commercial benefits from having a proper pickleball hub. The Oliver Parks and Recreation Society (OPRS), Oliver Tennis Club, and Oliver Pickleball Club note that, “By improving the court space here, we anticipate that Oliver’s appeal as a home or destination for visitors will be more desirable. This will enhance opportunities for economic development and tourism for the benefit of all.”15
While it is true that other sports (hockey – ringette; basketball – volleyball; swimming – water polo) compete for public venue time, these sports require much more expensive facilities (rinks, gymnasiums, and pools respectively) than tennis and pickleball. Excellent quality pickleball courts can be built for about $25,000 per court and can often be built on small areas of existing public parks.15
By supporting pickleball and tennis, communities are supporting two highly inclusive sports that have a relatively low risk of injury. The growing number of tennis and pickleball players, and the highly favourable cost-benefit ratio of these sports, suggest that pickleball courts and tennis courts are excellent investments for most BC communities.
We understand that “one size does not fit all.” here, we rank our recommendations from the one that is most desirable (Option 1) to the one that is least desirable (Option 3), recognizing that different communities have different circumstances, needs, and means. Despite this paper’s best intentions, this is a municipal issue and true progress will only come from local leaders in your community.
Build a dedicated pickleball centre or hub without repurposing any tennis courts.
Discussion: This model best meets the needs of both growing sports. It provides pickleball courts without reducing the number of, or access to, tennis courts. This model has been used with tremendous success in BC communities such as Vernon, West Kelowna, and Rutland. This option:
- Provides dedicated pickleball courts with permanent nets and appropriate fencing.
- Can include seating for spectators and for players waiting to take the court.
- Provides a facility that your residents will point to with pride, and an amenity that enhances your community’s appeal as a potential home or vacation spot.
The cost of building and maintaining pickleball courts is minimal compared to that of most recreational facilities (rinks, pools, gymnasiums, fields, etc.). Eight pickleball courts have roughly the same footprint as two tennis courts. Local pickleball associations often have strong connections to local businesses that can help sponsor a municipal facility. For example, the Vernon Pickleball Association raised more than one million dollars in just three weeks to enclose its 12 courts.16
This option allows the most freedom and flexibility in choosing a location for a pickleball hub. Ideally, a pickleball hub will be distanced at least 50 metres from nearby tennis courts and at least 150 metres from neighbouring homes. These distances will help buffer the significant noise that solid pickleball paddles make as they strike hard pickleballs.17, 18
Build a dedicated pickleball hub by repurposing some tennis courts.
Discussion: Like Option 1, this option also eliminates some disputes over shared courts although the two groups will likely have disagreements over how many courts to convert and which ones. This model has been used successfully in BC communities such as Kelowna, Richmond, and Kamloops.
Tennis courts are sometimes underutilized because of their location or their condition. If a community decides to repurpose some tennis courts, then the community planning phase (to determine how many courts to convert and which ones) should include fair and meaningful consultations with the community’s tennis and pickleball populations. Important considerations for Option 2’s planning and implementation include the following:
- The popularity of tennis is growing and communities choosing this option may find themselves short of tennis courts in the very near future.
- If some of a particular park’s tennis courts are converted to pickleball courts then signs should clearly stipulate that only tennis is permitted on the remaining courts or that tennis has priority at all times on the remaining tennis courts.
- Pickleball can be played in community and school gymnasiums. Children’s “red-ball” tennis and a sport called touch tennis can be played in gymnasiums, but actual tennis cannot. Only a few BC communities have public indoor tennis facilities, thus public tennis in BC is generally limited to outdoor play in the months that it is possible.
- Note the noise concerns regarding pickleball court location already discussed under Option 1.
Add pickleball lines to some tennis courts and institute a court booking system or post signage clearly indicating which sport has priority or exclusive use of the courts at which times.
Discussion: This option is not recommended. It has served as a temporary “Band-Aid” solution in several BC communities before they moved forward with Option 1 or 2. If this option is selected then the community planning phase (to determine how many tennis courts to multi-line, how to multi-line the courts, and how to schedule their usage) should include fair and meaningful consultations with the community’s tennis and pickleball populations.
Osbourne describes the multi-line option as a “recipe for conflict.”19 Council meetings across the province have been dealing with heated disputes between tennis and pickleball players fighting for court time. Describing a clash in Courtenay, journalist Debra Martin writes, “If it wasn’t exactly like the feudin’ Hatfields and McCoys, it was pretty darn close.”20 Central to the conflict is a clash of sport cultures. Tennis players arrive at public courts as a pair or a group of four. They play for 30 minutes or one set and then hand the court over to any other players who have been waiting. Pickleball players typically arrive in large groups and continuously “rotate in” for two or more hours before giving the courts up.
The number of tennis players in BC is growing. While Option 2 literally reduces the number of community tennis courts, Option 3 effectively reduces the number of community tennis courts by reducing their availability.
There are many different schemes (number of courts and their orientation) for lining pickleball courts on a tennis court. Each of these schemes has inherent problems that leave one or both groups unsatisfied. In several schemes, the pickleball lines extend beyond the tennis lines. If choosing this option, even as a temporary fix, be sure that the apron around the tennis courts provides sufficient area to play pickleball safely. Tennis players will eventually stop playing on shared courts if there isn’t a booking system or at least clear rules designating which sport has priority or exclusive use of the courts at which times.
The preceding three options provide a framework that Tennis BC hopes will assist any community or organization struggling with this pressing issue. Tennis BC is more than willing to work with any BC community or organization on any matters related to tennis at any time. Email us with any questions at email@example.com.
For complete publication data on the works cited below, see the bibliography.
- Charlton Insights, 2018
- Sports Fitness Industry Association, 2020
- Loudin, 2019
- Amazin’ Aces, 2020
- USA Pickleball, 2020
- Maki, 2019
- SFIA, 2019
- Pickleball Canada, 2020
- Tennis Canada, 2019
- Ianzito, 2018
- Owens, 2019
- Harvard Health Letter, 2020
- Schnohr et al., 2018
- Oja et al., 2017
- OPRS et al., 2020
- Pickleball Portal, 2020
- Jones, 2020
- Jones, 2020
- Osborne, 2018
- Martin, 2017
Amazin’ Aces (2020). Is pickleball the fastest growing sport in America?
https://www.amazinaces.com blogs/news/pickleball-fastest- growing-sport-america
AsphaltPro Staff (2020). How to surface and stripe a pickleball court. https://theasphaltpro.com/articles/how-to-surface-stripe-a-pickleball-court/
Charlton Insights (2018). 2018 Canadian tennis participation and interest study. Prepared for Tennis Canada.
Harvard Health Letter (2020, February). Pickleball pleasures and pitfalls. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/pickleball-pleasures-andpitfalls
Harvard Heart Letter (2020, September). Racquet sports: a good way to ramp up your fitness. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/racquetsports-a-good-way-to-ramp-up-your-fitness
Ianzito, C. (2018, July 6). Play pickleball for health benefits. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/
Jones, R. (2020, April). What to do about Pickleball Noise. Pickleball Drive.
Lajoie, E., & Valji, S (2020, February 24). In Canada, the cost of youth hockey benches the next generation. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/22/sports/hockey/
Loudin, A. (2019, April). Pickleball: The fastest growing sport you’ve never heard of. NBC News: Better by Today. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/pickleball-fastestgrowing-sport-you-ve-never-heard-ncna992106
Maki, A. (2019, April 26). Pickleball: the game more and more people relish. The Globe and Mail. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/article-pickleball-the-game-more-andmore-people-relish/
Marks, B.L. (2006, May). Health benefits for veteran (senior) tennis players. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 40(5): 469–476. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/
Martin, D. (2017, July 19). Pickleball, tennis dispute packs Courtenay council chambers. Comox Valley Record. https://www.comoxvalleyrecord.com/home2 /pickleball-tennis-disputepacks-courtenay-council-chambers/
Oja, P., Kelly, P., Pedisic, Z., Titze, S., Bauman, A., Foster, C., Hamer, M., Hillsdon, M.,
Stamatakis, E. (2017). Associations of specific types of sports and exercise with all-cause and cardiovascular-disease mortality: a cohort study of 80 306 British adults. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 51(10), 812-817. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/10/812.long
Oliver Parks and Recreation Society, Oliver Tennis Club, & Oliver Pickleball Club (2020). Enhancing racquet sports in Oliver: a business case for sport court renewal.
Osborne, A. (2018). South Island Tennis Association’s statement on pickleball. [Unpublished manuscript].
Owens, T. (2018, July 6). Top 7 health and social benefits of pickleball. CourtReserve.
Pickleball Canada (2020). Pickleball Canada History. https://pickleballcanada.org/
PickleballCentral.com (2020a). The definitive guide to pickleball court construction.
PickleballCentral.com (2020b). Choices for marking lines. http://www.pickleballcentral.com/v
Pickleball Portal (2020a). Pickleball noise problems: nearby residents complain. Shhhh, quiet!
Pickleball Portal (2020b). Pickleball health benefits for an aging population. https://
Schnohr, P., O’Keefe, J.H., Holtermann, A., Lavie, C.J., Lange, P., Jensen, G.B., Marott, J.L.
(2018). Various leisure-time physical activities associated with widely divergent life expectancies: The Copenhagen city heart study. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 93(12), 1775-1785. https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(18)30538-
Sports Fitness Industry Association (2019). Pickleball participation report 2019.
Sports Fitness Industry Association (2020). Pickleball participation report 2020.
SportMaster Sport Surfaces (2020). How to get blended line paint for a multipurpose sports court. https://localtenniscourtsurfacing.com/tag/blended-line-paint/
Sprecher, M. H. (2011, September). Inside the lines: adding ‘blended’ lines for 10 and under tennis is simple and cost effective. Tennis Industry Magazine.
Tennis Canada (2019). Let’s play year-round: Tennis Canada’s municipal tennis facilities strategy and partnership framework – executive summary. https://www.tenniscanada.
Tennis Industry Association (2019). Tennis talking points. www.tennisindustry.org
Tisshaw, K. (Ed.). (2008, April). Finding the sweet spot: a step-by-step guide to community tennis facility development. https://www.tenniscanada.com/wp-content/uploads/2015%2F01/Sweet-Spot-facility-guide-2008.pdf
USA Pickleball (2020). 2020 Pickleball Fact Sheet. https://usapickleball.org/about-us/
Vernon Morning Star Staff (2020, June 17). Roof pledges pass $1M for pickleball association. Vernon Morning Star. https://www.vernonmorningstar.com/sports/roof-pledges-pass1-million-for-vernon-pickleball-association/
Vodak P.A., Savin, W.M., Haskell, W.L, Wood, P.D. (1980). Physiological profile of middle-aged male and female tennis players. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 12(3):159-63. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7402050/