Orem leaders aren’t quite sure if it’s the sound of the Wiffle ball being smacked by a wooden paddle, or players blasting music in the early morning, but some Orem residents are having a love/hate moment with pickleball.
There are two locations for city courts: Sharon Park, 300 E. 600 North, that has six courts and Bonneville Park, 1450 N. 800 West, that has four courts.
It is the Bonneville pickleball courts that appear to be leaving a bad taste with neighbors.
“We put in the new courts last year,” said Reed Price, Maintenance Division manager. “The two tennis courts were old and crumbling. We left one tennis court and replaced the other with four pickleball courts.”
Price added, “It has been a very popular location and a good addition to the park.”
The courts are a shorter length than a tennis court and the plastic ball hitting a wooden paddle makes a popping sound, “back-and-forth, back-and-forth” that goes on from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., according to Price.
To appease the neighbors, the courts now open at 8 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. and Public Safety has a more frequent presence there to help with the noise ordinance.
“We installed sound barriers last week,” Price said. “But, it doesn’t help that much.”
Price said it is very challenging to have two competing sides, those who love the game and come in droves to play there and the neighbors who prefer not to have the racket.
The demand is there and the city will continue to maintain the courts, according to Price. Officials also will keep thinking about how they can lower the sound.
The New York Times dubbed pickleball the “perfect pandemic game.” It has only two teams of two players socially distanced for any game.
Pickleball was invented in 1965 by a Washington State congressman and two friends and is kind of a blending of table tennis, badminton and tennis.
It can be played indoors or out on a badminton-sized court with a lightly modified tennis net. It is played with a wood paddle and a plastic ball with holes. Participants can play either singles or doubles.
“Pickleball is a sport that is growing in popularity. It is for all ages,” said Steven Downs, city spokesman, at the opening of the Bonneville courts. “If you drive by Sharon Park when people are playing, you will see children, middle-age adults, and seniors all playing. It is a sport that not only challenges people physically, but connects people socially.”
Pickleball courts at Sharon Park have been a great success and have helped to drop the crime in the park. There are more people in the park, more lights at night and the parking lot is full, according to Downs.
The same thing is happening at Bonneville.
“Orem is known for great parks. They are beautiful and they are abundant,” Downs said. “However, they require consistent investment. For our citizens, nothing brings excitement quite like recreation, and we are glad we can continue to deliver quality projects.”
With Orem rolled back to the orange phase for COVID-19, all park playgrounds are closed, the Fusbol court is closed, and other amenities around the city, but all the pickleball courts remain open.