While the popularity of Pickleball multiplies exponentially, it’s scoring resistance from neighbors who say the game is simply too loud. Detractors in Green Valley are so annoyed they’re talking about a lawsuit.

Proponents hype the game’s exercise and social benefits; opponents say the repetitive noise made when wooden paddles strike plastic wiffle balls is just too much too close to home, even from inside with doors and windows closed.

The topic drew ire from several people at Tuesday’s meeting of the Green Valley Recreation board, which drew about 100 people — about 10 times the normal attendance. But it wasn’t all about Pickleball. That was added to the agenda as the meeting convened, primarily so staff could outline noise-abatement options to acoustical fencing that hasn’t withstood the windy hillside where GVR’s four newest courts were installed about a year ago at Canoa Ranch Rec Center.

Without the fencing, which blew off altogether during a July storm, the noise —  and concerns — are back.

Despite question from players before the courts went in that they were too close to housing — and whether the noise could spur legal action — the project went forward, boosted by getting a contractor who offered a good price to install the courts while in town repairing GVR tennis courts.

The courts came as a surprise to Charles Shinkle, who bought a home in Canoa Terrace in 2004. A couple of years later, he and his wife watched the center go up next to homes on one of the terraces. Last September, four Pickleball courts were added.

Shinkle took his noise concern to GVR management, who studied the noise levels, and authorized nearly $27,000 of abatement measures including tree-plantings, heightened walls between the courts and home property, and the failed insulation material. Until the fencing was torn up, Shinkle said he couldn’t hear the incessant thwacking of play on four courts while inside his home. He’s pretty much given up on enjoying his backyard, due to the echoing effect of walls on the community’s terraces.

“Also aggravating is that the players become quite boisterous, yelling, hollering and sometimes swearing,” he said. “It’s not so much what the decibel level, but the repeated thwacking.”

He and others at the meeting also expressed fears that the noise will affect home prices.

Repeated attempts to suspend play until the noise issue is resolved have gotten nowhere, Shinkle said.

“I think if something isn’t done to the satisfaction to neighbors here, a lawsuit is what it’ll come to. There are others as upset as I.”

Sally Warren, another Canoa Terrace resident, said the noise has “disrupted lives and devalued property,” likening it to cars driving down the road with stereos blaring. She called for removal of the courts, to have them enclosed, or compensation from GVR for lost property value.

Still growing

GVR Board President Linda Sparks said the first she knew of the complaints was in July.

Members of GVR’s Pickleball Club were aware of some discontent but also have quite a few players in the same neighborhood, said club president Donna Coon. General interest in the game is growing so fast that members are wondering when and where more courts will be installed, and whether public courts will be added.

Club membership is now at 392, 50 of whom joined in the last five months, “and that’s not the high season,” Coon said. Beginners nights are held twice weekly, and more are clamoring for lessons. Continental Middle School has offered lessons in its gym in the spring.

“We push it as a game all ages can play together,” Coon said, noting that her club has “a ton of 70-year-old players, some in their 80s and one 90.”

Popular in QC

Elsewhere in the area, Quail Creek is installing 16 courts to meet demand in its community of nearly 2,000 homes. Developer Robson Communities had planned eight but decided on more after seeing how popular the game was becoming at its other developments in Casa Grande and Texas. Noise has been an issue on past projects, so Robson’s first pick for a Quail Creek site was eventually changed to near the entrance gate, far from the nearest homes.

Almost 400 residents have indicated interest in joining the Pickleball Club there, and nearly 200 are signed up for two orientation events this fall. Enthusiasts are also starting a social club for those who don’t play but want to be involved with the anticipated events, tournaments, picnics and potlucks. A ramada with tables will be part of the complex, said Carolyn McBride, interim club secretary.

To have play suspended from four of GVR’s seven courts — three more are at the East Social Center — would be unimaginable, Coon said.

“It’s one of the reasons we asked the board to stop by and see the game,” she said.

With more than half of their courts out of action, Coon said the other three would easily have 60 people waiting to play.

The board stopped short of a motion to suspend play, but Sparks agreed to visit Canoa neighborhoods next week to hear the noise for herself. Then the board will consider the information and noise-abatement options “to come up with the best solution we can for most of the members.”

Other business

At Tuesday’s event, the board was told by Search Committee Chair Doug Fitz that the Chicago-based headhunter firm DHR International will assist in finding an executive director to replace Lanny Sloan, who was fired last month. Pending legal review of the proposed contract, the committee expects to bring DHR aboard for $30,000, about $10,000 less than first estimated.

An announcement detailing the job application process is due out soon on the GVR website and publications, Fitz said. Finalists will be narrowed to no fewer than three for the board to review and membership to meet.

The board was also told that a feasibility study of the Dorn Building, a former sales office in the Santa Rita Springs subdivision, is still underway. When it is complete, the Planning & Evaluation Committee will review it then draft a recommendation for the Fiscal Affairs Committee. If the recommendation is to acquire the building, that committee will determine funding, and if it can’t be found, consideration will likely be dropped. Sloan had opposed the move, citing it as an unwise expenditure. Some at the meeting applauded the conservatism.

Kitty Bottemiller | 547-9732