A York County community is fighting back against a pickleball court expansion, citing annoyance from the sound of the court being used. Credit: WGME/CBS 13

YORK, Maine — With about five million Americans playing, pickleball is considered the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. But those living near the outdoor courts in York say the sound of paddles hitting plastic balls is a source of constant irritation.

The sound of bouncing plastic balls seems harmless enough, but some families who live near the York Paddle Tennis and Pickleball Club say those constant clacks, for hours on end, is maddening.

“It’s like a tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. I hate to do that. Sound like a kid’s toy. But that’s what it sounds like. And it just reverberates right through this whole valley here,” said Bob Ellis, who is aggravated by the pickleball noise.

The club now requires members to use sound-reducing paddles. Neighbors say it helps but does not eliminate the noise entirely.

“Just last night and the night before, there was people out there playing, hootin’ and hollerin’, and you can hear them clear as a bell right at our house here,” Ellis said.

Ellis and other neighbors now oppose a proposal to add two new pickleball courts in the woods behind the clubhouse, which also includes a plan to reduce the noise.

“The courts won’t reduce the noise. What will reduce the noise is the way that we’re going to do the fencing,” said Lauren DeLong, with the York Paddle Tennis and Pickleball Club.

Incoming club president Lauren DeLong says they plan to build a six-to-eight-foot fence on the sides of the pickleball courts facing neighbors.

“By putting up the fencing that we’re proposing, the level of sound actually comes down way below the threshold,” DeLong said.

“I can’t believe that it’s going to be quieter,” Ellis said.

Ellis believes enclosing the courts is the only way to suppress the noise.

“The only way I would accept the pickleball is to enclose the building,” Ellis said. “I don’t think the walls will ever stop the noise.”

There are currently 300 members at the club. But there are more than that on the waiting list, which is why the club is desperate to build two new pickleball courts.

The decision rests in the hands of the York Planning Board — a decision that comes down to noise.

“I can understand both sides,” said Wayne Boardman, the York Planning Board chair. “The club, you know, wants to expand. It’s a very popular sport. And the neighbors are understandably concerned about the noise.”

The planning board has asked sound consultants hired by the town and club to work together to try to determine if the sound barriers will bring the noise below the limit of 60 decibels, which is about the sound of a normal conversation.