Taking over kids' parks! Pickleball spreads like wildfire

Invasive species taking over children’s parks! Pickleball is spreading across US like wildfire – boosted by the Kardashians and other celebs – but kids are being kicked out of parks and tennis courts taken over

  • Pickleball has recently exploded in popularity across the United States and likely isn’t going anywhere given huge recent injections of cash into the enterprise
  • Star sportsmen including Lebron James and Tom Brady have invested in a professional Pickleball league
  • Celebrities like the Kardashians, Leo DiCaprio, Stephen Colbert and Bill Gates also count themselves as fans of the accessible sport
  • But increased and aggressive use of local tennis courts and playgrounds by pickle ballers has yielded conflict in some communities

The racquet sport craze that’s been sweeping the nation is creating neighborhood drama on the streets of New York as neighbors claim pickleball enthusiasts are taking away playground space from children.

The recently popularized sport that combines Ping-Ping, badminton and tennis, has generated controversy among concerned parents and tennis players alike.

The sport has also amassed a huge celebrity following, including reality royalty the Kardashians, Leonardo Dicaprio, Stephen Colbert, Bill Gates, and George and Amal Clooney.

Sports legends Tom Brady and Lebron James have gone so far as to invest in Major League Pickleball, which started last year.

Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates said he has long been a fan of the sport that was invented in 1965 by three dads in Washington state

But in New York’s West Village, concerned citizens on neighborhood app Nextdoor have been sounding off on their frustrations regarding the increasingly popular pastime.

‘Anyone else sick of Pickleball by their home?’ wrote one tangibly annoyed user.

‘The sound is so piercing and unblockable, it’s given me PTSD every time I hear a ball when going around town.’

Another apparently concerned neighborhood observer described the impact the pickle ballers are having on the youth.

‘Even the kids who go to school next door (to where the posted video takes place) have their recess being over taken by pickle ballers. The kids have nowhere to play,’ wrote the user.

The original post showed a short video of dozens of adult pickleball players occupying almost all of a neighborhood playground area, while a group of kids huddle in one very small area of the public park with nowhere to play.

Mark Borden, a father of two and writer, recently established a change.org petition to have the city’s parks department toss pickle ballers out of Seravalli Park in the West Village.

‘There seems to be a lack of awareness by the pickleball players,’ he told the New York Times.

‘They’re blinded by their passion for the sport,’ he said, calling the players the ‘lantern flies of the sports world – an invasive species that takes over a natural ecosystem and destroys it.’

Local West Village parents launched a petition to get pickle ball out of a neighborhood playground that their children currently have significantly less access to because of the rise of the sport

New York City residents have grown increasingly frustrated at the space pickle ballers are taking up on both tennis courts and in local playgrounds

An illustration shows how pickleball courts completely overtake Horatio park in the West Village

The current conflict exists in large part because there aren’t very many established places for pickle ballers to play their sport.

In New York especially, space is limited and while there are a handful of public tennis courts, tennis players are hardly fans of the idea of sharing.

Among other issues, tennis players say the different sized nets and additional chalked on lines that create the smaller pickleball court are confusing.

During a springtime debate in Exeter, New Hampshire about converting some of the town’s tennis courts to pickleball courts, tennis great Martin Navratilova weighed in on the controversy. 

‘I say if pickleball is that popular let them build their own courts,’ she wrote on Twitter.

New York City pickle ballers have been said to lack ‘awareness’ about how many public resources have been occupying of late – from swatting whiffle balls at all hours, to preventing kids from using playgrounds


The sport was invented in 1965 by three dads on vacation on Bainbridge Island in Washington state who were trying to amuse their kids.

Bill Gates, who has a mansion on Lake Washington in Medina, Washington, is a longtime fan of the sport.

The billionaire posted on Instagram a video of himself explaining the rules captioned, ‘fifty years ago, I started playing this little-known sport with a funny name. Now it’s all the rage.’

For years the sport barely made a dent and was played largely in retirement communities and by the elderly. 

Even now, there are only about five million players in the US. In contrast, more than 20 million Americans took up tennis in 2020 alone, according to the Physical Activity Council.

People play pickleball at a public court in Brooklyn, New York on September 29, 2022

Though shared spaces may not be the way forward for the sport, continued expansion seems likely as celebrities with millions and corporate ventures get more involved.

According to a New York Times piece, a group of Florida real estate developers are dropping $180 million to establish 15 private pickleball clubs.

The project will include a 33,000-square-foot facility in Sarasota, Florida with a dozen indoor courts and a cafe and retail shop. 

In Florida, a group of real estate developers are spending $180 million to build 15 private pickleball clubs, including a 33,000-square-foot facility in Sarasota with 12 indoor courts, a cafe and a retail shop.

As big and bigger money jumps into the pickleball game, the odds that the market for the accessible sport becomes more bullish are good.

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