Pickleball poaching to be prohibited in Glendale, giving back tennis players their courts

Glendale is tired of pickleball poaching and the city is preparing to put an end to it.

As an increasing number of pickleball players claim the flat hard surface of tennis courts for their games — laying down tape to mark lines and rolling portable nets into place — tennis aficionados are having a harder time finding available courts to play their venerable pastime.

It’s gotten so bad in Glendale that the city is pursuing an ordinance that makes it illegal to “mark the surface of the (tennis) court with any type of temporary or permanent marks or lines.” The City Council approved the measure last week on a first reading and will cast a final vote next month.

High-definition cameras will be used to monitor courts and violators could receive a misdemeanor citation. It appears to be the first ordinance of its kind in Colorado — or perhaps the nation.

“We have not heard of anything like this,” said Melissa Zhang, spokeswoman for USA Pickleball, the sport’s governing body in the United States.

Glendale City Manager Chuck Line said it’s about creating “diverse opportunities” in the midst of a pickleball boom that has placed the sport at the top of the fastest-growing list for the third year running, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. It means creating facilities for both sports and preventing cross-use through the strong arm of the law, he said.

“If people want to play tennis, they can play tennis,” Line said. “If they want to play pickleball, they can play pickleball.”

The rapid growth of pickleball, which last year counted nearly 9 million players in the United States, has not gone without notice. Noise has been the most prevalent complaint, spurring lawsuits and discontent from coast to coast. In March, Centennial passed a moratorium on the creation of outdoor pickleball courts near homes while the city sorts out what to do about the sonic impact of paddle on plastic ball.

Less discussed has been the takeover of tennis courts by pickleball enthusiasts looking for a place to play their game, which is a mashup of ping-pong and tennis. The consensus seems to be that there simply aren’t enough dedicated pickleball courts to satiate the appetite for the game, which prompted tennis great Martina Navratilova to opine last year on Twitter, now X, that tennis courts should remain tennis courts.

“I say if pickleball is that popular let them build their own courts,” she wrote.

To that end, Glendale is building four new outdoor pickleball courts at Glendale Park, which should open for play next month. Meanwhile, the city is reclaiming its two outdoor tennis courts, which its new ordinance states “have been dominated by pickleball for the past several years, precluding opportunities for the citizens to play tennis.”

The city even drew pickleball boundaries over the tennis courts several years ago — given pickleball’s appreciably smaller court dimensions — as an attempted dual-use solution. But Kelly Legler, program manager for the city’s Glendale Sports Center, said tennis players found the superimposed lines distracting during matches.

That is if they could get a court to start with. Tennis players, she said, have been regularly rebuffed at the courts at the southeast corner of East Kentucky Avenue and South Birch Street.

“They walk over and it’s all pickleball,” Legler said. “Pickleball takes it over all day. Co-existence wasn’t there. Some people don’t seem to get etiquette.”

Glendale’s new measure will also prohibit the shoveling of courts by eager wintertime players or placing chairs on the courts, which the city says was degrading the playing surface.

Cherie Chao, a one-time competitive tennis player and current competitive pickleball player and instructor who lives in Arvada, acknowledged that pickleball is “incredibly addictive.” She converted her aging backyard tennis court into two pickleball courts three years ago.

“It was an immediate love,” she said of pickleball, which she first started playing 10 years ago.

Chao partnered with former tennis pro Gigi Fernandez in a Professional Pickleball Association doubles match several years ago. But she’s not of the mind that tennis, a sport with hundreds of years of history, should throw in the racquet and take a seat to a sport that only got its start in 1965.

She applauded Glendale’s approach of segregating play between designated facilities as a “great compromise.”

“Do not get rid of your tennis courts,” Chao said. “It’s a wonderful sport.”

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