PITTSBURGH — Pickleball has an unmistakable sound. To the players, it’s almost music to their ears, the sound of fun, a good shot, of competition and community.
“It’s the friends. You meet a lot of people, and you get better by playing a lot more.”
But, to Louise Deriso who who lives across the street from the Edgewood court, that sound is maddening.
“It’s a high pitch. The same pitch as a garbage truck backing up, ‘beep, beep, beep’ and it’s irritating,” said Deriso.
“It has a higher pitch than tennis. Tennis is a kind of ‘thump.’ Pickleball has a kind of pop and when you hear that ‘pop, pop, pop’ it can get annoying,” said Bob Unetich, a former CMU professor and engineer who studied sound waves and signals.
“When I retired from that, I went to Florida, and I picked pickleball and the neighbors complained. I had to understand it,” Unetich explained.
And he did.
Through his consulting firm, he now works with local governments and communities to find ways to make pickleball quieter.
Many people are annoyed like Deriso, but she said she’s not against the sport.
“I’m not against pickleball. It’s just that it shouldn’t be played this close to a residential neighborhood,” Deriso explained.
Deriso sent a petition with more than 50 signatures to Edgewood Borough to ban it at the park across from her house.
Franklin Park has now taken that step and banned pickleball at Old Orchard Park after neighbors complained.
There’s a Change.Org petition in Cranberry to restrict hours of play to after 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday and no play on Sunday.
11 News also found a Facebook page, ”Pickleball Noise Relief” where people can sound off on ways to muffle the noise.
From coast to coast, there are petitions, calls to police and lawsuits.
It seems the tension is only growing.
We heard about the “pitch of pickleball” but how loud is it?
Measured in decibels, pickleball at 100 feet away registers 70 decibels. Similar to a vacuum cleaner.
Tennis is 55.
“It’s louder than tennis, that’s for sure,” said player Randi Coffey. I don’t know if I’d wanna live right next to it.”
So, what can be done?
Unetich is working on it, and he knows a few ways.
One way is “quieter” paddles. However, they can cost over $200, compared to many at sporting goods stores that start around $35.
There are also “quieter,” softer balls. But top players prefer the harder ones allowing them to be more aggressive.
And there are “sound-dampening” fence covers.
“Through barriers, quieter equipment, working with USA Pickleball, I want the suppliers, the vendors, to put technology into it. Technology can save the day,” said Unetich.
In the meantime, the players play on, regardless of how loud the “pop” is.
Giuseppi Francioni is an avid player who also happens to be a “pickleball ambassador.”
“I represent USA Pickleball and it’s my responsibility to promote places to play and promote the sport, the ‘goodwill’ of the sport,” Francioni said.
It’s important to him because he wants all pickleball players to be respectful, and he’s aware of the noise complaints.
“I’m very sensitive to that,” said Francioni.
Deriso, who lives across from it, is ready for a change.
“I’m stuck here. I live here. I can’t go anywhere else. Pickleball players can go somewhere else,” she said.
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