PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Lake Oswego City Council voted last week to shut down the city’s only pickleball courts while they explore a potential new location. The news comes as a blow to devoted pickleball players, but a relief to neighbors who are tired of the repetitive pop-pop sounds from the sport. 

City councilors spent hours Tuesday listening to public comments, exploring relocation options and discussing who to side with. 

Residents who live in Lake Oswego’s Old Town Neighborhood near George Rogers Park have complained repeatedly about the sounds that come from the pickleball courts across the street. 

They started raising concerns in January 2022. The courts were constructed in 2015. 

Since the complaints began, the city has significantly restricted the hours the courts can 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. 

However, all of this wasn’t enough to stop the neighbors’ complaints. 

“We all agree that pickleball is a wonderful sport for players,” said Derrith Lambka, Old Town Neighborhood Association board member. “It also creates a very jarring and loud noise that puts people living nearby on alert, like a car alarm, barking dog, or as one city leader described it ‘It’s as if there are six drum sets in your garage and people randomly and frequently come and bang the drums.’” 

Neighbors have expressed concern about the health effects of the repeated banging and at Tuesday’s meeting, they brought in Jenny Davies, a public health doctor and environmental attorney, to explain just how serious noise like this can be. 

Davies said chronic, persistent environmental noise triggers the body’s stress response and said it’s been linked to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and premature death. 

Other people who provided public comment said the real health risk lies in taking away the sport of pickleball in Lake Oswego. 

While the sport appeals to people in a variety of age groups, David Dunning provided public comment saying it’s been essential to Lake Oswego’s older residents, like himself. He’s been playing pickleball at George Rogers Park for the past five years. 

He said unlike football, soccer, or baseball, pickleball is an active sport people can play into their older years. 

“People who choose to live by a city park should not be shocked when there is noise coming from activities at the park and should be in no position to demand that those activities cease. No one forced them to live by a city park,” Dunning said. 

Lake Oswego resident Liz Banks also plays pickleball and commented during the city council meeting to say that while pickleball players have made compromises to reduce sound throughout the year, she feels neighbors haven’t been willing to compromise on their stance. 

People play pickleball at the courts at George Rogers Park. Photo courtesy City of Lake Oswego

After hearing public comment, city councilors reviewed several options on how to either further reduce the sound from the pickleball courts or relocate them. 

Kyra Haggart, park analyst for the city of Lake Oswego presented the options. 

The first would be to install covers over the courts at George Rogers Park to help mitigate the noise. These covers would also allow pickleball to be played year-round at the park. Haggart estimated it would cost more than $100,000 to cover the courts. 

The second option is to relocate the pickleball courts. 

Haggart said the city’s parks and recreation department considered several locations. The first is at the intersection of Pilkington Road and Rosewood Street. Haggart said the city could lease this property and it would cost just over $1 million to build pickleball courts there. 

Next, she explained that the courts could replace the dog park at Hazelia Field. This would require the city to move the dog park elsewhere and would cost about $880,000 to flatten the soil and build pickleball courts. That does not include the cost of relocating the dog park. 

The third potential location, and the one most city councilors threw their support behind, was to replace the tennis courts at Westlake Park with Pickleball courts. Haggart said this is the most cost-effective option and said it would cost about $25,000 to restripe the courts or $60,000 to completely convert them to pickleball courts. 

Mayor Joe Buck pointed out that the city is in a funding crunch and does not have the money to build new courts. Therefore, he supported the Westlake Park option. 

Councilors Ali Afghan, Trudy Corrigan and Rachel Verdick all agreed with the mayor and felt the George Rogers Park courts needed to be shut down as soon as possible and relocated. 

Councilors John Wendland, Aaron Rapf and Massene Mboup felt there should be more compromise and agreement between neighbors and pickleball players. 

“We should find a way to live together,” Mboup said. “That’s my question. How can we live together, players and neighbors?” 

After much debate, the councilors voted 4-3 in favor of closing the George Rogers Park courts while the city considers the feasibility of converting the courts at Westlake Park. They also voted 4-3 to begin converting the courts at George Rogers Park to tennis courts immediately. 

Parks and recreation officials said it could take anywhere from three to six months just to go through the steps for a conditional use modification for the new site. There would be an additional amount of time required for the city to determine if parking space is adequate at Westlake Park and to allow contractors to bid on the project and receive a permit. 

The George Rogers Park courts were the only pickleball courts in the city of Lake Oswego. Pickleball players will need to travel to other courts outside the city to play or form makeshift courts. 

If the Westlake Park conversion is approved, the new courts will be located 5 miles from George Rogers Park, on the other side of Oswego Lake. 

The city said it will work with neighbors near Westlake Park to help mitigate the pickleball sounds. City officials said the corner of the courts would be about 150 feet away from the nearest residents.