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Gentlemen, start your paddles...

Pickleball and paddle tennis may be two separate sports, but instead of competition between the two, some Sonoma residents are hoping they come together – quite literally, in fact, on a new pickle-paddle-tennis court combo.

We know what you’re thinking. Pickle? Paddle?

Long a staple of P.E. classes everywhere, pickleball and paddle tennis are miniaturized versions of tennis, perfect for those who love the sport, but not necessarily running the entire baseline just for a single swing.

Paddle tennis is played on a court smaller than a regular tennis court, with a depressurized tennis ball and a solid paddle, not a strung racket. Pickleball has a similar-sized court, and uses a wooden paddle to hit a hollow, perforated, plastic ball similar to a Wiffle ball. Either sport can be played in singles or doubles teams, and are popular among active adults.

Simon Blattner plays paddle tennis; Mike Giangreco plays pickleball. Independent of each other, they realized there was a growing pickle/paddle demand. And that Sonoma needs a court.

“There are courts in Santa Rosa, in Napa, there are courts in Petaluma; we’re surrounded, but it’d be nice to have one here,” Blattner said. Similarly, Giangreco said he plays pickleball in Napa, Petaluma and Santa Rosa.

“I’m a paddle tennis guy,” Blattner said. “The court is virtually the same, but the net is different.” The Sonoma resident said a court that can be converted to and from a paddle tennis or pickleball court would be ideal.

He said pickle ball is more popular in Sonoma than paddle tennis, especially for seniors, but there are several people who play either sport. It’s gaining popularity fast both in the country and in the county; last year, Oakmont Village, an active adult retirement community in Santa Rosa converted one of its tennis courts into several pickleball courts.

However, that move sparked a controversy within the community due to the noise, and the courts have drawn complaints from residents living near the courts.

In a retirement community such as Oakmont, however, it’s no perhaps surprise that the noise from hitting a plastic ball back and forth at high speeds draws scrutiny and protest from those looking for peace and quiet.

According to a guest editorial in the Kenwood Press by Kerry Oswald, the original plan – which called for the construction of bleachers for tournament style play and seating – has changed, since the consequent noise pollution would be even louder than the game itself. Oswald also reported that at least one resident allegedly sold her Oakmont home due to the project.

As for a court in Sonoma, pickleball supporters envision a variety of possible locations – from Maxwell Park, which has plans for major renovations, to a campus of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District.

While pickleball players dream big, the reality can be as sobering as a slicing backhand. “I tried with the city, I think we’ve got a little better chance with the county,” Blattner said.

The two recently got in touch with Sonoma County Regional Park’s Scott Wilkinson, the project manager for many of the park upgrades. Giangreco and Blattner said Larson Park on De Chene Avenue near Boyes Hot Springs, and Maxwell Park near El Verano are the prime candidates.

“I think those have been thrown around because of the existence of tennis courts there,” Wilkinson said. The surface on tennis courts is the same used in paddle tennis and pickleball, so converting existing tennis courts to be used for its athletic younger siblings cuts on costs. And because pickleball and paddle tennis use a smaller court, one tennis court could fit two new, smaller courts.

“It seems like a good idea. It’s a good way to create a dual-use for the space,” Wilkinson said. The idea will be part of the conversation for those parks, but nothing specific yet has been decided.

To learn more about their progress or to voice support for such courts in town, contact Mike Giangreco at mike@winecountrythisweek.com and Simon Blattner at simon_blattner@yahoo.com.

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