Pickleball is becoming a hot topic for many associations and homeowners throughout Arizona. Mulcahy Law Firm is seeing issues emerge regarding the sport, including the possibility of associations converting tennis courts into pickleball courts and noise issues associated with pickleball. This article aims to walk associations through some of the issues and possible solutions for pickleball disputes.

  1. What is pickleball?

While most people are familiar with the sport of tennis, not all may be familiar with pickleball. Pickleball was invented in 1965 in Seattle, Washington, and is now played by millions of people around the world. Pickleball is said to be a hybrid sport between tennis and ping pong. It is played on a court that is roughly half the size of a tennis court, or 20’ x 44’. Players hit a ball with holes, similar to a whiffle-ball, with a paddle over a net that is 36” high. Pickleball can be played with two or four players and is known to be a sport that is easy for new players and a sport that can be played by people of all ages. It has grown in popularity so quickly because it is known to be a fun sport for all age groups and can be played at various levels.

  1. Can tennis players and pickleball players work together to get along?

The increased popularity in pickleball appears to be creating disputes among homeowners and Boards in associations throughout the valley. The dispute we commonly hear is when there are two primary groups in the association, one pro pickleball group and one pro tennis group, and the groups do not want to see courts in the community used for multiple purposes. Most times, the association will already have a tennis court in the community. Therefore the question is whether the tennis court should be converted into a pickleball court or if instead the association should add special lines for pickleball to the tennis court.

According to Terri Graham, owner of Spirit Promotions, which produced the 2016 US Open Pickleball Championships, it does not need to be an all or nothing problem. Ms. Graham encourages clubs around the country to schedule play time for both tennis and pickleball groups. Tennis can become harder for older people or persons with injuries to continue playing. According to Graham, pickleball is a great way for people to stay healthy and active and a “part of the fitness continuum.” Further, the sport is likely to continue to grow because the USA Pickleball Association has “Ambassadors, people who are really enthusiastic, whose job it is to hold demos and clinics and help get people introduced to and interested in the sport.” As associations see more people playing pickleball, there may not be another solution, other than to all be friends.

  1. Can tennis courts be converted to also accommodate pickleball courts?  Or should boards consider building new pickleball courts?

From a logistics standpoint, tennis courts can be converted into pickleball courts in two ways, shared use or dedicated use. One tennis court can be converted into one pickleball court, two pickleball courts, or four pickleball courts, depending on how many different lines the association wants painted on the tennis court. For step by step instructions on how to convert a tennis court into a pickleball court for shared use, we found the following blog post helpful: How to Convert a Tennis Court into a Pickleball Court.

The Association could also decide to fully convert tennis courts into permanent pickleball courts. It appears that 1 tennis court can permanently be converted into 4 pickleball courts. This may be a good option for your association if your tennis courts are rarely used and your Association has an enthusiastic group of pickleball players.

If the association currently has tennis courts, and the Board is considering adding lines to it so that the courts can be used for shared use, or if the Board is considering fully converting the tennis court to a pickleball court, the Board should review its CC&Rs to ensure it can change the use of the common areas. Sometimes, an association needs certain homeowner approval in order to change the use of a common area. To the same point, if there are currently no courts within the association and the Board is considering converting other portions of common areas into courts, the Board should review its CC&Rs to ensure it can change the use of the common areas. The Board may need a specific homeowner approval in order to change the use of a common area.

  1. Noise issues for Pickleball

If you google “noise issues with pickleball” dozens of complaints from homeowners within associations that have pickleball courts will emerge. The game of tennis is relatively quiet in comparison to pickleball. Therefore you can understand why someone who purchased a home within a community with tennis courts could become very upset when the tennis courts are converted into pickleball courts and draw more players and more noise.

There are ways to reduce the noise from the ball hitting the paddle in pickleball. Options include: soundproofing material placed around the pickleball court; quieter paddles; and quieter balls. The sun City Grand Pickleball Club in Surprise, Arizona has 22 courts, and 1,303 members. The Board of Directors for the Club issued a list of approved and banned paddles after contracting with an independent sound study company to determine which paddles were “creating sound at a decibel that some residents living in the area found unacceptable.” The Board created a chart of paddles that are allowed and paddles that are banned at the courts.

In line with what the Board for the Sun City Grand Pickleball Club did, Boards for associations can consider adopting rules regarding the times that pickleball is allowed to be played within the association, and may also consider adopting a list of approved paddles. If the Association has a larger budget for the project, the association may also consider looking into a sound proofing fence to surround the courts.

  1. Where can you play pickleball in Arizona?

If having pickleball courts within your association is not a feasible option, there are dozens of locations around the valley where pickleball enthusiasts can catch a game. There are a number of websites dedicated to coordinating games and playing times for pickleball players. A website called, “Meetup”, helps coordinate games by date and location. Another website specifically listed homes for sale in Arizona that are located within pickleball retirement communities.

Stay tuned for more information on this hot topic. Visit mulcahylawfirm.com for more homeowner association tips and topics.

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