Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Pickleballers hold sound test in Oak Bay, hoping to save North Saanich courts

“If the option is close the court or use a particular paddle, that’s a pretty easy decision,” said Tessa Graham, VRPA vice-president.

Mark Brennae
May 16, 2024
Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Pickleballers hold sound test in Oak Bay, hoping to save North Saanich courts

“If the option is close the court or use a particular paddle, that’s a pretty easy decision,” said Tessa Graham, VRPA vice-president.

Mark Brennae
May 16, 2024
Jordan Mikkers (middle) measures sound at Carnarvon Park pickleball court. Photo: Mark Brennae / Capital Daily
Jordan Mikkers (middle) measures sound at Carnarvon Park pickleball court. Photo: Mark Brennae / Capital Daily
Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Pickleballers hold sound test in Oak Bay, hoping to save North Saanich courts

“If the option is close the court or use a particular paddle, that’s a pretty easy decision,” said Tessa Graham, VRPA vice-president.

Mark Brennae
May 16, 2024
Get the news and events in Victoria, in your inbox every morning.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Pickleballers hold sound test in Oak Bay, hoping to save North Saanich courts
Jordan Mikkers (middle) measures sound at Carnarvon Park pickleball court. Photo: Mark Brennae / Capital Daily

Sounding off on North Saanich council’s decision earlier this month to close the Wain Park pickleball courts, pickleballers took to science yesterday in an attempt to prove the politicians wrong.

Dozens of players descended on Carnarvon Park to help measure sound levels at Oak Bay’s recently upgraded pickleball courts, which were fitted with sound mitigation panels last year.

“What we’re trying to show is with acoustic panelling combined with the soft (pickleball) paddle, brings the noise level down to kinda regular ambient noise,” said Tessa Graham, vice-president of the Victoria Regional Pickleball Association (VRPA).

“Because that seems to be the main issue and reason why North Saanich council and mayor shut down the pickleball courts.”

Wired for sound

Using a calibrated microphone, Jordan Mikkers, a mechanical sound designer who has taken up pickleball in the last year—and full disclosure, also has worked on the new softer racquet developed by Oak Bay resident Howard Haugom—spent a few hours yesterday taking a snapshot of sound.

“Between 1200 and 1500 hertz (Hz) is where pickleball kinda peaks at, and that annoying ping is similar to a garbage truck backing up or a beeper,” Mikkers says, so even though the sound may not be louder the human ear is more sensitive to it and that’s what the noise attenuation panels can soften, he said.

Mikkers set up his equipment 50m from the Oak Bay courts, of which four were used to mimic the size of the four-court facility in North Saanich. The players took turns playing with regular and soft racquets and with regular and softer balls. 

While the data may take a few days to analyze, preliminary measurements suggest the sound panels and softer racquets made a difference.

Mikkers found the ambient sound declined from 55 decibels (dBA) with players using regular pickleball paddles to 43dBA when they switched to the low-noise Owl racquet. It should be noted the North Saanich bylaw (set for heat pumps) is 45dBa.

The decibel level dropped but the frequency remained pretty much unchanged at 1200Hz. What changed was the loudness of the frequency, dropping 12dBA as the softer paddle transferred the energy from a high frequency to a low frequency, Mikkers said. 

“That high-frequency pitch is dropping down 10dBA, which has reduced the sound by half,” he said.

“You still get the same amount of noise energy in some cases, but it’s a lot lower frequency.”

How we got here

The shutdown order at Wain Park became a fait accompli on May 7. It followed a vocal open house before a council meeting the previous night in which scores of pickleball players packed city hall to try to convince the council to keep the courts open. The decision teed off players from across the city who call the courts the best in the region.

The council voted 5-1 with one absentee councillor, to close the courts. Its reasons: loud noise levels, players ignoring posted times to use the courts, and allegedly disrespecting nearby residents—“bullying” was the word the mayor used.

“Well, if I had to pick a number, I’d say 75% noise and 25% because of the way that the residents in that location were being treated,” is how North Saanich Mayor Peter Jones described things to Capital Daily on May 3. 

The Saanich Peninsula Pickleball Association (SPPA) denies any accusation of bullying and insists the decision to shutter the courts came with little or no public input, transparency, or fiscal responsibility.

The news to shut ‘er down came as a shock to players and some residents who questioned the council’s call to mothball a public space that cost $150K+ just seven years ago.

The four courts are positioned some 50-80m from a half-dozen houses. The residents, Jones told Capital Daily earlier this month, had “gone through so much harassment and bullying over the last number of years that pickleball is just not going to happen at this time.”

The mayor, who did not return an email in time for this writing, has said he tried to find a suitable landing spot to relocate the courts and that players were encouraged to use softer, noise-muffling racquets and balls, but they didn’t cooperate.

“We found from the pickleball association, there was zero compromise,” Jones said on May 3.

Pickleballers say otherwise

Graham, whose members filled the Oak Bay court all morning, said it’s “a myth” most pickleball players don’t want to use the softer paddle—unrelatedly, developed and marketed (and certified by USA Pickleball) right in their neighbourhood by Oak Bay resident Haugom. 

“If the option is close the court or use a particular paddle, that’s a pretty easy decision,” Graham said.

Brad Watson, the Saanich Peninsula Pickleball Association (SPPA) president, said the softer and thicker racquet shaves 50% of the noise. “It doesn’t change the game,” he said. “It softens everything and quiets everything.”

As for players using a softer ball to lessen the noise, Graham called that a different, “quirky idea.”

“It would be kind of like asking a hockey player to use a plastic puck or a golf player to use a plastic wiffle ball.”

Let's all just take a breath here

Graham said she hoped everyone involved in the pickle-brouhaha could take a step back and look for ways to work together.

“What we’re trying to do is look at how to be proactive, solution-focused, and come to the table with ideas that could help council and mayor respond to the noise complaints in an appropriate way.”

She said the VRPA kicked in $4K for the sound-mitigating fence absorption panels purchased from a US manufacturer and has offered the same amount to North Saanich to dress up and quiet down the Wain Park courts. So far she said, the offer has been ignored. 

Mayor Jones pegs the cost of installing noise reduction panels in Wain Park at $90K+.

“I know that’s what he’s saying,” Graham said. “We have a quote from the [Florida] supplier at $35K to $40K Canadian.”

Thanks for the the offer, but . . .

Watson said the pickleball people invited North Saanich’s mayor, council, affected residents, and the district’s director of infrastructure services, Ben Martin. 

Capital Daily spotted one North Saanich councillor—Jack McClintock, who voted against the closure.

McClintock called the pickleball dispute “disappointing” and expressed optimism that if new information were to emerge, he could get North Saanich council to talk about this again.

Related News

Pickleballers hold sound test in Oak Bay, hoping to save North Saanich courts
Stay connected to your city with the Capital Daily newsletter.
By filling out the form above, you agree to receive emails from Capital Daily. You can unsubscribe at any time.