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Kings of the court? As pickleball grows, tennis players worry about getting edged out

Original post made on Jan 18, 2023

As pickleball has exploded in popularity, the city has taken notice -- and action. Next month, the City Council is scheduled to adopt a new policy that would reassert pickleball's dominance at Mitchell Park.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 18, 2023, 9:55 AM

Comments (16)

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2023 at 10:59 am

Bystander is a registered user.

If this trend continues, it is likely that there will be no more American grand slam winners! Tennis is a worldwide sport, not so sure whether ipickleball is known outside the country.

I see no reason why pickleball should have precedent over tennis at anytime of the day.

Posted by Bill Glazier
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 18, 2023 at 11:16 am

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Many tennis courts are unused most of the time in Palo Alto. All pickleball courts are loaded most all the time with excited, enthusiastic young and old players. We have an entire park dedicated to Lawn Bowling/Bocce that is empty literally 98% of the time - I walk by it every day. We could convert half the tennis courts in Palo Alto to pickleball, and there would still be more than adequate tennis capacity, and new pickleball courts would be fully used. Private tennis clubs fulfill much of the demand for the serious players, pickleball is entirely reliant on public courts. Lines at existing pickleball courts are often so long they discourage people from getting out and playing.

Posted by Jamie Pearson
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 18, 2023 at 1:52 pm

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This decision is a great example of the city shifting resources to meet the growing need for pickleball courts. There are 51 tennis courts in Palo Alto, and the city has collected multiple data points that indicate that many tennis courts were going unused across the city.

Posted by tmp
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 18, 2023 at 5:29 pm

tmp is a registered user.

What this really shows is the lack of amenities for the residents of Palo Alto. If the city had been adding park space and courts as fast as they are adding people, (as is called for the the city's comprehensive plan and routinely ignored by the city council), then we would have added parks and playing areas and everyone would be able to find a court.

This is a perfect example of lack of planning to provide for the growing resident population that wants to get outside, exercise and enjoy the city. To bad the city wants to steal from one group to give to another, rather than budgeting and building for the needs of its citizens.

Posted by BruceS
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 18, 2023 at 7:14 pm

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I'm a regular tennis player, but also occasionally play pickleball. Both sides are right.

Yes, during weekdays many tennis courts are underutilized, but in the late afternoon and evening they are as over-subscribed as pickleball courts. Another consideration is that pickleball is very loud, both the social nature and the hard paddles on a plastic ball. It's not practical where there are homes nearby, and annoying to serious tennis players on adjoining courts.

The best answer would be to build pickleball courts, but that's understandably difficult here in Palo Alto, where build-able land is scarce.

One compromise that seems promising to me is to give up the other two 'back' tennis courts at Mitchell Park to pickleball, but have the city add lights at Cubberly. This provides more nighttime tennis courts, when demand is greatest. Yes adding lights at Cubberly is non-trivial, but a lot cheaper and easier than finding places to add more courts, and lights at Cubberly are appropriate, as the courts are not near housing.

By the way, the map is deceptive. Many of the tennis courts listed are not lit, so useless at night. The school courts are not available during the day, and the HS courts are often taken over by the HS teams in the afternoons and even weekends during the school year. In addition, many of the courts listed are in terrible shape, especially most middle-school courts, and the Palo Alto High courts are notorious for that.

Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2023 at 8:38 pm

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Clearly there will never be enough pickle ball courts as there will be an endless demand given nearly half the members of the club don’t even live here.

This game should decentralize, with all cities providing some courts for their residents.

Palo Alto cannot provide an infinite supply and therefore should not stress out about this. We have other priorities. We need a gym. We need a public swimming pool in south City. Move on.

Posted by Jim Fossel
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 18, 2023 at 9:56 pm

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@felix There are already public pickleball courts in Menlo Park, Mountain View and Redwood City as every city is wrestling with the growing demand for pickleball. These courts are crowded with Palo Alto residents playing there too.

@Bruce The Cubberly idea is a good one and has been discussed by the Parks and Recreation committee. Also, note that the city's court usage surveys were done at night and consistently demonstrated that there are open tennis courts at night.

Posted by Vincent
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2023 at 8:26 am

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I agree with BruceS. Seems that tennis courts are not used during the day, because most younger players have to work. I do see more senior players on the courts regularly. Of course, tennis is a physically demanding sports compare to pickle ball. The learning curve is steeper. In contrary, pickle ball needs almost no skills to start, that's why pickle ball is getting popular in the US.

I just watched a pickle ball game on YouTube
Jack Sock/John Isner vs Anna Leigh Waters/Jessie Irvine
Web Link

Pro tennis players lost first game 0:11 then came back win two straight sets. Both pro pickle ball players are top of the world. They lost to pro althletes that have almost no pickle ball experience. Can you imagine that could happen in other sports?

Some of my friends play pickle ball and enjoyed it. Many of them have ping pong or tennis experiences. They are doing very well in pickle ball by using their previously learned skills. I'm happy for them.

Pickle ball is a very good social game for everyone to join. My wife also tried few times but has to stop due to the pressure on her back because you have to bend down constantly to play pickle ball.

Back to the point. It is not a good solution to steal tennis courts for pickle ball. I've seen may cities built their pickle ball courts with limited resource. Because you don't need the high fence. Converting some other land to pickle ball is way easier than building tennis courts.

Adding lights to Cubberley is also a viable solution. I know that they are at their capacity. The resurfaced courts are among the best in the city. We should definitely look into them.

Mitchell Park used to be a home court for USTA, not anymore due to pickle ball. All teams are registered at Rinconada and Cubberley (w/o lights). Rinconada teams are well known in USTA sectional as they are always strong! We need to find a better solution for pickle ball.

Posted by Elisa
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jan 19, 2023 at 11:01 am

Elisa is a registered user.

Pickleball has become integral to my mental and physical health. I can no longer play the more demanding tennis game. Pickleball’s eminently more social and community focused environment in Palo Alto has helped me reconnect with neighbors and make new friends, now that I’m retired and my kids off living their own lives. Pickleball as a sport, and the spirit fostered by the club leaders and members, make it more accessible and available to a diverse community. Its growth is just a reflection of what the community needs: a place and an activity where we can find connections and foster our wellbeing. I am so thrilled to have found it.

Posted by John Jacobs
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 20, 2023 at 8:56 am

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Change is difficult for many. Having been an avid tennis player for close to 50 years, and now an avid pickleball player, the merits of pickleball, as described in many comments above, is why the sport has become so popular across age, gender and ethnic groups. It seems the community would want to promote this growth. Anecdotal comments by "tennis only" players cannot mask the data that was meticulously collected over several years. Given the 51 tennis courts in town, 17 of them lit, including the four "tennis only" front courts at Mitchell, it seems more than fair that we could allot 15 pickleball courts in one location to accommodate the huge number of pickleball players. "The greatest good for the greatest number" seems like the appropriate principle to apply here.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2023 at 1:04 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Pickleball is really noisy. One can hear the thwock of the pickle balls from more than two blocks away. I would not want to live right next door to it.

Tennis is a little less noisy, but still not something you would want next to your bedroom windows with lit courts at night. Bruce's Greenmeadow neighbors whose bedrooms back up to the Cubberley courts will be very upset to hear he is advocating for this. They have fought this before with good reason--the need for sleep and to be able to relax and converse in the evenings in their homes. Though I don't live in one of these homes, I get that.

The thwack of tennis balls and the noises people make when they play--yelling, talking loudly across the courts the "Aaaaaagh!" when they swing hard or serve is tolerable during the day--but not at night. We need more courts. When did the city and school district stop collaborating to serve citizens? We all help pay for PAUSD facilities. I would like PAUSD to start working together with the city more to make more efficient use of these facilities when PAUSD doesn't need them.

These are community facilities. They are not PAUSD's or CoPA's. They belong to the public. We pay for them, and they are underused. The city might support some portion of the cost of improving the PAUSD courts if you all could come to an agreement about sharing them to serve the citizens whose taxes pay for these facilities.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2023 at 2:22 pm

Resident is a registered user.

The Cubberley tennis courts look like an ideal spot for tennis lights. They are surrounded by the parking lot and playing fields and an alley and I would argue the courts were in place well before the 5-6 houses backing up to the alley were last purchased.

One cannot buy a home adjacent to a public space and expect it to remain quiet.

Posted by Vittorio
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2023 at 10:45 am

Vittorio is a registered user.

I am a tennis player, and I try to play regularly in Palo Alto. In my experience, it is not true that tennis courts are often empty, especially in the afternoons/evenings. Only a few of them have lights (Rinconada, Mitchell and PALY). Often you have to travel from one site to another to find a court. So I am strongly opposed to the notion of limiting tennis courts availability. A better option, in my option, would be to build a dedicated pickle ball facility. Knowing the noise associated with pickleball, such facility would have to be far from residential areas. I believe that on very suitable location already exists, and it is the area with the circular walking path at Greer Park, not far from the skateboard rink. It is very seldom used, no other sports are plaid there, and has enough space for several courts. I believe this would be a win-win situation as it creates the additional space needed for pickleball, does not take away from other sports and does not disturb residents. Palo Alto surely has the resources to implement such a solution.

Posted by Jim Fossel
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2023 at 12:38 pm

Jim Fossel is a registered user.

@Vittorio - I agree that Greer Park should be looked at for future courts as pickleball continues to grow.

I encourage you to review the agenda from the November, 2022 Parks and Recreation Committee meeting. The staff report contains the results of numerous surveys that city completed which consistently showed that there are numerous unused tennis courts across Palo Alto at night.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2023 at 9:51 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@Vittorio, Why not build it near the Baylands, so the homeless people can enjoy it too? Most of them lack transportation, and after the homeless transitional housing apartments are built it would be a welcome addition to Palo Alto's intentions to create opportunities for ALL residents. WIN/WIN!

Posted by Seer
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 30, 2023 at 1:40 pm

Seer is a registered user.

We're coming for you young, whippersnapper vigorous tennis players. Like the zombie apocalypse, we may be slow in our pickle-walkers, but we're relentlessly shuffling in your general direction!

I have no solution for this, I just point it out as my skin starts to look more like a pickle, my play is also shifting from tennis to pickle. Get in the broth, resistance is futile!

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