Battle over pickleball court in Walnut Creek neighborhood

Pickleball is America's fastest-growing sport since 2019. But the outdoors, court-based paddle game is garnering a fair amount of critics too.

In Walnut Creek, this type of court battle is part of a national craze.

"I discovered pickleball about four years ago, and a light went off in my head," said player Lisa Klein.

Armed with paddles and what appears a Wiffle ball, men and women of all ages compete.

"It’s like ping-pong, it’s like tennis, it’s like racquetball, all mixed together," said Cindy Gershen, the secretary for the Walnut Creek Pickleball Club.

From 8 a.m. until 1 p.m., members do a form of daily athletic worship at Rudgear Park in Walnut Creek.

"It’s just such an open place of levels, age groups, races, economic backgrounds," said Klein.

The city converted several tennis courts into pickleball courts six years ago, due to growing demand. And then in 2020, COVID hit, pushing more people out of gyms and indoor recreation spaces, and into parks, like this one.

But this competition is creating a problem with surrounding neighbors.

Many complain the noise from the paddles, jammed street parking, and an influx of people are making this court action untenable.

"Overall, it’s just as loud as a regular park experience," said player Derric Haynie.

In a statement to KTVU, the city's communications manager said, "One of the considerations (to settle the impasse) was to relocate pickleball to the City’s gymnasium during the weekdays while a more suitable place to play is identified."

But some players said closing will cost more than just exercise.

Cindy Gershen’s husband died at the start of the COVID pandemic. Daily play here helped pull her out of a deep depression.

"Shutting us down is like taking away my heart, you know?," she said, fighting back tears.

The WCPC is considering paying for an acoustic wrap around the court fencing as a way to reduce noise.

Other players say a different, softer ball, might help. Both players and neighbors have an opportunity to weigh in at a city council meeting Tuesday night, over the fashionable game threatening suburban tranquility.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter @JesseKTVU or Instagram @jessegontv.