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As pickleball grows in popularity, noise complaints are also on the rise

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(NEW YORK) — Pickleball has become one of the biggest sport trends in the last few years, but for some people, it has not been fun and games.

Some have gone to court in an attempt to end the racket that they say has been keeping them up at night, and causing other inconveniences.

“It’s like a machine gun with a never-ending barrel of ammunition tied to its gun,” Ernie Barrows, a mechanic from Mashpee, Massachusetts, who has complained about pickleball courts to his town council, told “Nightline.”

The sport, which can be played indoors or outdoors, is similar to tennis. However, it has a smaller court size, and uses ping-pong paddles instead of rackets and a plastic ball.

Pickleball has been around for decades, but it has gotten more popular in recent years with almost 10 million players, a 6 million jump from a year ago, according to USA Pickleball, the sport’s national governing body.

It has spawned professional leagues, with teams owned by big celebrities, tournaments that award millions in prizes, and more.

Thomas Wilson, a major league pickleball player, told “Nightline” the pick up and play aspects are a major draw for people.

“Anyone can play together. I mean, I’m a top pickleball player in the world and I train with my parents, they are in their sixties,” he said.

But with that fun has come some complaints, particularly from the sound made by the ball vibrating against the hard paddle in a small space, making constant “pops.”

Barrows said he moved to Mashpee for its quiet environment but after eight paddleball courts went up near his home in 2018, he claims he’s been bombarded with noise all of the time.

He took his complaints to a recent town hall select board meeting and got into a back-and-forth with the pickleball players over his request to shut down the courts.

“I have Parkinson’s disease. It’s hard for me to express how important Mashpee pickleball has been to my physical and mental health,” a resident said at the meeting.

“I’m not fighting you. I’m not denying the fact that pickleball is a great sport and has affected you…but there are other avenues to play pickleball around here this is not it,” Barrows responded.

The Mashpee pickleball courts were briefly closed on Sundays in July while the town assessed the situation, but pickleballers argued the game was following local rules.

On Aug. 7, the town’s select board then voted to reopen the courts on Sundays.

In the nearby town of Falmouth, residents who said they were inconvenienced by pickleball went even further.

Rob Mastroianni, his wife Stephanie and four of their neighbors ultimately decided to file a lawsuit against the town’s zoning board of appeals in January of 2022. They allege the “injurious and obnoxious noise levels” violated local rules… forced them “to wear noise canceling headphones”…. and caused anxiety that contributed to “sleepless nights.”

“We decided we had enough,” Mastroianni told “Nightline.” “And we were all very reluctant participants in this.”

The town manager declined to comment about the pending litigation.

Mastroianni told “Nightline” he bought his own equipment to test the “pop” noises after the courts were erected in 2020, while other plaintiffs have recorded the noise from their bedroom windows.

He has started a Facebook group and been in conversation with others who have been inconvenienced by pickleball to raise their voices.

The Falmouth courts were closed after a judge granted Mastroianni and the plaintiffs a preliminary , but he said he and his family had enough and moved out of their home of 20 years.

“I would like to see pickleball thrive and grow responsibly [but] I can’t drive down my street without my blood pressure going up with my heart rate racing,” he said.

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