PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Lake Oswego Pickleball Club is still reeling after city councilors voted on Jan. 17 to immediately and indefinitely close the city’s only pickleball courts.
The decision came after neighbors who live in the Old Town Neighborhood near George Rogers Park complained about the pop-pop sounds made by people playing the sport.
Councilors voted 4-3 to close the courts immediately and to consider converting tennis courts at Westlake Park, a park 5 miles away from George Rogers Park, to pickleball courts.
“You have to understand. This came as a complete shock to us,” said Bob Ross, a 73-year-old member of the Lake Oswego Pickleball Club. “We were just blithely going around enjoying ourselves and then all of a sudden these complaints started.”
The pickleball courts were built in 2015 but neighbors said since then, the sport has grown and so has the noise.
They started complaining to the city council in early 2022. In a year, the city significantly reduced the hours the courts could be used, asked players to use equipment that helps soften the sound of the ball hitting the paddle and installed a sound-dampening fence around the court.
Still, neighbors said this wasn’t enough and continued to push the city to close the courts. They went so far as to hire an attorney to represent them against the city, according to a report by KOIN’s news partner Pamplin Media.
On Jan. 17, the neighbors got what they were pursuing, leaving players like Ross devastated.
Ross moved to Lake Oswego about three and a half years ago and found a community by playing pickleball.
“I made more friends playing pickleball at George Rogers than at any other time in my life,” Ross said.
The courts allowed 24 people to play at a time, but Ross said often there were as many as 40 people there.
The pickleball club itself has about 500 members, he said, and the decision is causing the group to splinter.
Ross said one group of about 20 people wants to fight the city council’s decision and ask the members to reconsider. The other group feels pursuing the fight is a waste of time. They’re trying to figure out how they can continue to play in the coming season.
Prime pickleball-playing season in Oregon is roughly from May to October. That gives the club a few months to come up with a new plan, but the city said if the Westlake Park court conversion is approved, it could take up to 10 months before the courts are ready to play on. This is assuming there are no appeals during the land use review or any weather-related construction delays.
This includes the one to two months it could take for the city to prepare and submit the land use application, the three to six months it will take for a land use review and up to two months to construct the project.
Ross said the club volunteered to supply the nets at the new courts and repaint the stripes to try and avoid any potential obstacles or anything that could further delay the process.
Club members were hoping the city would keep the George Rogers Park courts open until a new location had been formally approved. Councilors voted against this.
There are courts in Tualatin, Wilsonville and Gladstone the club has been considering, but Ross doesn’t know if they’ll all be able to agree on one location and fears the group will be broken apart.
“If they gave us a court that was close by where the same group of people could play together, I’d do it. That’s all I’m frustrated about,” he said. “This was a pickleball-friendly community.”
Now, he’s wondering how pickleball-friendly the community near Westlake Park will be. Part of the conditional use modification process includes a public hearing and Ross is afraid those neighbors might scorn the sport for the same reason as Old Town.
Old Town neighbors said the repeated environmental noise was bad for their mental health. They called in Jenny Davies, a public health doctor and environmental attorney, to the Jan. 17 city council meeting to explain that noise like the pop-pop of pickleball can trigger the body’s stress response and can result in serious health conditions like high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
Ivan Anderholm, director of the city’s parks and recreation department, said the city has scheduled a pre-application conference with the city’s planning department for Feb. 9. Both the Westlake Neighborhood Association and the Oak Creek Neighborhood Association have been invited to attend the meeting. The city will also schedule a formal neighborhood meeting to discuss the project.
Ross said so far, the club has been more reactive than proactive in response to the news of the courts closing. It could take several more months before they have a plan on where they’ll gather to play.
KOIN 6 News contacted Lake Oswego city councilors to ask for comment. The councilors did not reply before the deadline.