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West Van may have found a permanent pickleball home

Pickleball players say they have a new quieter paddle, which should cut down on the controversy that surrounds the sport.
Pickle Ballers 01 web
West Vancouver pickleball players Richard Thorpe, Sandy Tambosso, and Reg Allen gather at the Dundarave courts in October, 2021, before they were closed by the district.

West Vancouver council has narrowed to two options where pickleballers and their somewhat noisy sport will be welcome, permanently, outdoors.

Council voted unanimously May 30 to do public consultations and further study on four dedicated courts either just east of the Hugo Ray Park cricket pavilion clubhouse, or just north of it. Those sites were chosen because staff believe they would have minimal sound impact on the nearest residences.

Class D cost estimates for the two range between $465,000 and $526,000.

Ed Pielak, a member of  the 200-strong West Van Players pickleball group, said his members preferred one option over the other, but in the interests of finding a permanent solution, he urged council to do a thorough consultation and find what will work best for everyone.

“I would like the whole community to come up with a decision rather than this group or that group,” he said.

The amount of racket generated by the rackets may soon be less of an issue, he added.

“Now, we have a new paddle that's being developed. It's a prototype,” he said. “We’ve brought the sound down by 50 per cent.”

That was followed by a demonstration in the council chamber with a group member bopping pickleball with both a conventional and new, sound-muffling paddle, showing the new one is indeed quieter.

Between conflicts with neighbours over noise and conflicts with tennis players over the repurposing of their courts, finding a home for pickleball has been a challenge around Metro Vancouver. But, speaking for the North Shore Pickleball Club, Helen Martin, advised council they better get used to it.

“Guys, we're not going away. We're just growing and growing and growing. And you should all be very afraid,” she joked, provoking a laugh from council and staff.

Council’s vote to proceed with the consultations on the two Hugo Ray sites was unanimous although not without some trepidation.

Coun. Nora Gambioli said she’d like to hear what contributions the pickleball community is planning to make for the upkeep of their new courts.

“I am a little bit afraid, but not of pickleball players because I have tried it and it is great fun and I have two noisy pickleball rackets myself,” she said. “What I am afraid of is that we are a community that has a tax base that is just about 100 per cent residential and we cannot support new infrastructure while also maintaining all of the old infrastructure.”

Coun. Bill Soprovich said there may be a need to expand the number of pickleball courts in Hugo Ray in the future, in which case, council ought to be creating a new master plan for future recreation possibilities in the park now.

“That was something that this council maybe missed,” he said. “They can jump my bones on it, but that's my view.”

Soprovich’s motion, asking staff to devise a master plan process, could not find a seconder on council though and never made it to a vote. Creating yet another planning process when there is an urgent need to make a decision was the wrong course, Coun. Craig Cameron countered.

“The one thing we cannot do in this community, which we have a bad habit of doing, is studying things to death and killing them with process. We have people who have pickleball rackets in hand and are ready to get on the courts,” he said.