By Damian Mann
Pickleball is about as loud as one person whispering to another person, according to a decibel test conducted by a Southern Oregon Pickleball Association official.
David Johnson, director of player development, tested the sound of a pickleball match at Lithia Park in Ashland Monday and found the reading hit 51 decibels, quieter than a household refrigerator and quieter than the people talking on the court.
“If I was standing a foot away and whispered to you loud enough for you to hear, but quiet enough that you couldn’t hear across the room, that would be no louder than 50 decibels,” Johnson said.
A normal conversation is about 60 to 70 decibels, he said.
Johnson conducted the tests with a decibel meter because of concerns about the noise being made by pickleball. He found that a car passing by at 15 mph was more than 60 decibels. He was standing across the roadway from the tennis courts at Lithia Park.
Some residents near a new park in southeast Medford have complained about plans to install two new pickleball courts next to Shamrock Street, east of North Phoenix Road and north of Barnett Road, citing noise and traffic.
Other residents have come forward voicing support for the pickleball court at Village Center Park.
“I feel that a playground would be great, and pickleball would be a great addition to the park,” wrote resident Sarah Evans in an email to the Mail Tribune.
Another resident, Brad Pederson, wrote, “In my opinion, if you are going to be bothered by the noise of people playing pickleball in the park, you are also going to be the person complaining to the city that kids are too loud while playing in the park.”
Johnson, who lives near Grants Pass and formerly worked as an acoustician, said that in his experience other sports played in parks can be louder than pickleball.
“They’re not worried about the basketball court, but they’re worried about the pickleball court,” he said.
He said there have been times that pickleball games have been stopped because of the noise from a basketball game nearby.
“We play at Don Jones Park, but sometimes we have to leave when a dozen or so kids show up,” he said. “They’re having fun, but they’ll bring the big boom box and crank it up.”
Unfortunately, the foul language from the boom box is too much, he said.
“People cussing in pickleball — I’ve never heard of it,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he drove his Mazda on a newly paved stretch of Interstate 5 near Grants Pass and his decibel meter hit 72. When he drove it over a rougher stretch between Medford and Central Point, it hit 86.