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Winning the Space Race

Pickleball’s boom has brought with it a surge in demand for where and when it can be played. In turn, that’s created special facility challenges for clubs that must deal with space restrictions and fit the game in without disrupting other activities or disturbing their surroundings, both within and outside their property.

They’re big challenges, but clubs are finding ways to strike the right balance between satisfying demand while minimizing upheaval to other club operations and the noise and annoyance factor for those who don’t play—an especially critical concern for clubs in gated communities and residential developments:

A recent Forbes report1 described how BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. followed a typical planning sequence to ramp up its facilities in step with pickleball’s rapid growth. After starting by striping existing tennis courts for the sport, BallenIsles then converted some tennis courts for permanent pickleball play. As it saw its number of active and interested pickleball participants almost quadruple in just two years, it has implemented a strategic plan for large-scale adoption of more courts as space allows.

In a recent article2 in BoardRoom magazine, Jarrett Chirico, USPTA, PTR, PPTA, PPR, PPTR, director of racquets at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas, declared “clay-court pickleball is a key to the growth” of the game. Chirico wrote that he first introduced the clay-court version of the game about a decade ago while at Green Valley Country Club in Lafayette Hill, Pa., after seeing play on that club’s indoor hard courts swell to a weekly average of 750 to 1,000 players on a seven-days-a-week basis. Despite initial objections that pickleball is a “hard-court game” and balls would not bounce as needed on clay, Chirico persevered and eventually found the right process for converting courts. He hosted a national clay-court pickleball tournament that drew 180 players and has now helped close to 100 clubs make conversions to help meet the demand for courts. An added bonus, Chirico wrote, is that clay is proving to be easier on players’ bodies while also making the game “even more athletic for those looking for a challenge.”

Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. is among the clubs that have had success striping interior tennis courts for pickleball. In addition to opening up many more courts for play on a year-round basis, this has the advantage of containing noise as well as providing a controlled environment to combat the elements—especially windy conditions that can adversely affect playing conditions.


The real evidence that pickleball is fast approaching equal status with golf in popularity comes from the development of “Chicken N Pickle,” described as the sport’s own Topgolf. The new commercial operation still has a way to go to grow at the pace of the leading golf entertainment venue and the many imitators it has spawned. But Chicken N Pickle is following a similar model with equal success: Buy a few acres of inexpensive land, put in a dozen or so indoor and outdoor pickleball courts, along with a casual rooftop restaurant/sports bar and an outdoor lawn for other “yard games,” and then market the locations as espe- cially suitable for family gatherings, company team-building meetings or other group outings.

Six current locations are currently listed on, in Grand Prairie, Texas; Kansas City, Mo.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Wichita, Kan.; Overland Park, Kan. and San Antonio, Texas. New locations are also planned to come on stream in 2022-23 in Grapevine, Texas, Glendale, Ariz. and St. Charles, Mo.

The “pop” of pickleball is not music to the ears of many who don’t play the game, both inside and outside club properties. There have been many filings of lawsuits and legal proceedings contending that the noise associated with pickleball violates local municipal codes or the rules of home- owners or condominium associations. A couple in South Carolina sued a nearby country club claiming that late-night pickleball games caused “unreasonable interference [with their] enjoyment of the property,” and a woman sued the city of Newport Beach, Calif., claiming that pickleball being played 100 yards from her home was the cause of her “severe mental suffering, frustration and anxiety.”

Research has shown that the sound of a solid pickleball paddle hitting the plastic pickleball can be more than 25 decibels louder than anything produced by even the most top-flight tennis player. Equipment modifications have been introduced to try to help lower the noise, but most players don’t want any part of watering their games down in that fashion. That’s led to some clubs turning to noise curtains to try to find a solution that’s acceptable to all involved (or not).