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Tennis players get the upper hand as pickleball complaints mount in Newport

NEWPORT — Tennis enthusiasts are now up 1-Love in the battle against pickleball players for court space as the city enforces tighter restrictions on pickleball court hours following several noise complaints from residents abutting Hunter and Vernon parks.

“It’s like being in a locker room,” Hunter Park abutter Warren Garner said at the City Council’s regular meeting Wednesday. “(The noise is) coming in the windows, it’s coming in the doors and there’s really no place in the house to avoid it.”

The City Council unanimously adopted a new ordinance at its regular meeting Wednesday night which will add the recently limited operating hours for pickleball courts in Hunter and Vernon parks to the city code, making the hours easier for the city to enforce. Tennis courts were also going to receive the same limited hours under the new ordinance until the council voted to remove them from the restriction.

Newport has the only dedicated pickleball courts in Newport County at Hunter Park, though more are in the works.

In addition to restricting pickleball court hours, the ordinance also prohibits pickleball players from drawing temporary pickleball court lines on other tennis courts. Both restrictions come as a response to noise complaints from park neighbors.

“Most of the discussion has been on the impact pickleball has had on the parks and the sharing of the courts, so I do think just imposing a restriction on pickleball courts makes sense to me,” Councilor Jamie Bova said.

Although Newport Public Services’ Recreation Division instituted tighter operating hours for Newport’s pickleball and hybrid tennis courts in 2021, city staff recently became aware of players ignoring the restricted hours of operation and garnering noise complaints from nearby residents. Additionally, staff also received complaints of pickleball players temporarily installing lines on tennis courts throughout the city as the popularity of the sport has overcrowded the few pickleball facilities in Newport.

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“I believe that Newport is one of the first communities to have these pickleball courts and you know, we learn as we go along and that perhaps, as we move forward, we need to move them out of residential areas,” Councilor Lynn Underwood Ceglie said.”We’re working on making things better.”

Newport resident Mona Barbera, whose home buts Hunter Park thanked The City Council for their consideration of the ordinance. She said the noise issues she has been experiencing are unique to pickleball, both in how the game is played and the reactions from players themselves.

“The culture is similar to that in the bleachers, but in this sport the shouting is coming from the players,” Barbera said. “It’s just like bleachers where people feel completely free to express their joy and despair in a guttural verbal production.”

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School Committee candidate Kendra Muenter came forward alongside fellow Newport resident and tennis player Amy Machado to thank the City Council for sparing tennis courts from the ordinance restrictions because of the difference in noise produced by the two sports.

Two pickleball players raised objections to the ordinance, however. Portsmouth resident Matthew Yates said imposing a restriction on pickleball was unfair, as playing tennis also creates noise and suggested the city look into a different enforcement tactic to reduce noise. Another Newport resident, Libby Gill, said the courts are overcrowded and they need more courts away from residential areas.

Administrator Erik Reis explained the current standard distance to reduce noise impact on residential communities severely diminishes the plots of land pickleball courts could be placed Recreation because of Newport’s dense population. City Manager Joseph Nicholson said the city has been keeping its eye out for opportunities but is waiting to see what land might be available following the Pell Bridge realignment project.

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“I don’t want to sound facetious here, but it’s taken about five years to find a place for a basketball court,” Nicholson quipped. “We’re managing what we have.”

This article originally appeared on Newport Daily News: Pickleball players in Newport given curfew following noise complaints

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