Pickleball is popular — there’s even a pro league — but court time is limited in South Vancouver
Space and noise are limiting factors to building pickleball courts in South Vancouver, says one coach
By Ty Lim
Enthusiasts in South Vancouver say expanding the number of pickleball facilities in the area to keep pace with the sport’s rising popularity isn’t easy due to limited real estate and the paddlesport’s notorious noisiness.
While a 2022 Pickleball Canada survey showed the number of players almost tripled in two years, there are only three pickleball facilities in all of South Vancouver. This leads to long wait times or having to drive long distances to play.
“We have to drive to Surrey, we have to drive to North Vancouver,” said certified pickleball instructor Mona Lee.
Lee said municipalities like Delta, Whistler, Surrey and Langley, have many courts, often decked out with bleachers, benches and water fountains.
“There is no real estate, there is nowhere to build more courts,” she said. “Surrey and Delta, they have more land, they can build a beautiful facility.”
Pickleball also has limitations about where courts can be placed due to noise concerns.
“I think the greatest problem in pickleball is the sound of the ball, that people don’t like it in their area,” Stan Fryer, a pickleball player from South Surrey said.
Lee said that as a player, she doesn’t even notice the sound but acknowledges that passersby will have a different response to it.
“They’re gonna say ‘What’s that clack, clack, clack sound?’” said Lee.
The president of Vancouver Pickleball Association Greg Feehan said in a blog post, “If courts are placed at least 100 m away from the closest residence, the problem is solved.”
Members of the Vancouver Pickleball Association have been pushing for more courts, including one in Memorial South Park.
City puts players in a pickle
Lee said she went through a five year process just to get the city of Vancouver to build a dedicated pickleball court in Queen Elizabeth Park in South Vancouver.
In order to do so she had to get a 3,000 person petition signed, provide testimonials from her students, and do multiple TV spots to raise awareness.
Even cities that have pickleball facilities are feeling the pinch. In Surrey the number of pickleball courts per 100,000 residents is over four times the number in Vancouver, according to data provided by Ronith Cogswell, Vancouver Pickleball Association mediaperson.
Surrey pickleball player Jeffery Chan said the court at South Surrey Recreation & Arts Centre has long wait times in the summer.
Pickleball BC board member David Snell said many pickleball clubs are no longer taking new members because of this.
“It’s a problem now,” Snell said.
Pickleball for all ages
An easy sport to pick up for people of any age and ability, pickleball has emerged as an attractive sport for many, according to Fryer, who is 96 years old.
“I think it’s popular because anybody can play,” Fryer said. “And because it’s so easy to learn. You know, older people can play.”
Chan, 26, said younger players are also picking up paddles.
“Right now as the younger generation come in it’s become more and more intense and fast-paced,” he said.
The Pickleball Canada survey estimated that eight per cent of Canadian households report at least one member plays pickleball once per month.
“No other sport’s like that,” said Surrey player Matthew Annan. “It’s blowing everything away.”