Think of it as “crack” vs. “thwack.”

In the fast-growing sport of pickleball, the hard paddle hits the plastic ball with a “crack.”

In good old-fashioned tennis, there is more of a “thwack” when the stringed racket crushes the relatively soft tennis ball.

Now, the City of Evanston is trying to figure out how to make room for both sports, each of which requires court space with nets (smaller courts for pickleball).

The city is currently working on a “green space and parks strategic plan,” the Director of Parks and Recreation, Audrey Thompson, told Evanston Now on Tuesday night.

Parks & Recreation Director Audrey Thompson.

“We do need to have dedicated pickleball courts,” Thompson said. “It’s very high on the list.”

Pickleball and tennis were among the items discussed at the Second Ward meeting at Robert Crown Center, where the four almost-ready-to-reopen tennis courts will remain tennis only, following resurfacing and re-striping.

The city is currently renovating 16 tennis courts in various locations around town, but only three of the resurfaced and re-lined courts, in James Park, will be dual marked, for both of the racket sports.

There are other dual marked courts at Lovelace Park as well.

However, Thompson said “the number-one issue” she hears about is the need for more dedicated, pickleball-only facilities.

“The pickleball community comes out in droves,” Thompson stated, adding she has received hundreds of emails on the subject.

Residents at the 2nd Ward meeting Tuesday night.

“It’s a big deal,” she added.

The park suvey will check, among other things, how often the tennis courts are actually used for tennis, versus sitting empty. The results could lead to more of a pickleball push, or perhaps a pickleball pushback by tennis aficionados.

Communities around the nation, Thompson said, are “trying to figure out how tennis and pickleball can coexist in the same city.”

Part of the problem is noise. A pickleball “crack” can be more grating on the ears than a tennis racket “thwack.”

So it’s not just a balancing act between pickleball and tennis players. There’s also those living by the courts who’ll want input.

Still, pickleball is picking up steam. There’s even a professional pickleball circuit.

“This is not a phase,” Thompson said.

“I think it’s a new sport.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Join the Conversation


  1. YES YES YES to pickle-ball courts…! hopeing to see more in Evanston area –
    Maybe this summer.


  2. As a tennis player, I experienced this firsthand on a nice Friday afternoon a couple of weeks ago. Went to closest park to me which has two tennis courts — both were occupied by pickleball players (there are pickleball lines there). Went to another set of courts, all in use. Went to Northwestern courts, all in use plus a huge wait (of tennis players). Finally, went to the horrible Leahy Park courts (which are in desperate need of resurfacing as the surface is more like “parking lot” than tennis court; I am shocked these weren’t on the list to be resurfaced) and could finally play.

    So, the demand for courts is definitely up. I don’t begrudge pickleball players and definitely want them to have courts, but also do admittedly find it a bit annoying when all the tennis courts are occupied by non-tennis players. Still, having a sport that gets people active is only a positive. Would love to see Evanston build out pickleball courts, but there’s of course limited space and budget. And, yes, the sound of hitting a tennis ball is MUCH preferred by neighbors to that of pickleball. 🙂 It will be interesting to see if pickleball is a fad or is here to stay.

    Thanks for the article and reporting.

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