Pickleball collective looking to expand in Tri-Cities

stock photo supplied Ron B

Julie McRitchie was walking with a friend in Coquitlam’s Poirier neighbourhood when she heard the sounds.

The ping of a ball bouncing off a paddle. Sneakers skirting on a concrete court. Laughter.

“What is that?” McRitchie asked her friend.


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Although she didn’t have a background in competitive sports, McRitchie was drawn to the noises coming from the tennis courts.

It was 2016 and, having recently moved to Coquitlam, McRitchie longed to meet new people and make more friends.

So she walked towards the direction of the sounds — the ping, ping, ping that would become divisive in some Tri-Cities neighbourhoods over the course of the next seven years.

After their game, a player from the court introduced himself and the game of pickleball. He invited her on court.

Surrounded by a group of strangers, paddles, and plastic balls, she told herself: this is the game for me.

McRitichie was hooked.

“Everyone was so welcoming and I thought, ‘even if I don’t play well, I could have fun.’”

Forming the club

Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in Canada.

A 2022 Ipsos survey found there were around 900,000 households in Canada that played pickleball, an increase of roughly 650,000 in two years.

The pandemic led to increased participation in the sport as it allowed people to play and socialize outdoors at a time when restrictions forbid people from meeting inside or in large groups.

However, as pickleball participation increased there was no dedicated club in the Tri-Cities — despite other clubs popping up throughout the Lower Mainland.

“I noticed there were clubs in other communities and I saw how far people were travelling to [play pickleball] in other communities,” she said.

So, McRitchie decided to do something about it.

“Once we started playing on local courts in Coquitlam, people were recognizing that there was a need to form a club locally,” McRitchie said. “We were sharing courts with tennis players and there was nothing yet formed in the Tri-Cities.”

In 2021, five years after being introduced to pickleball in Poirier, McRitchie launched the PoCoMo pickleball club, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the game of pickleball in the Tri-Cities.

There are currently about 400 members in the club.

As PoCoMo prepares to kick off its third summer season in June, McRitchie expects that number to grow to more than 500.

With the increase in membership, she is also advocating for more space to play pickleball in the Tri-Cities.

“The goal is to get more courts,” McRitiche said. “We’re keeping in communication with Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody.”

Currently, there are eight outdoor pickleball courts in Coquitlam, and two outdoor locations in both Port Moody and Port Coquitlam.

But not everyone is always keen to see more pickleballers in their neighbourhood.

The problem with the ping

A pickleball court debuted in Coquitlam’s Blue Mountain Park in July 2020.

Less than two years later, dozens of residents who lived near the park complained that the popping sound — made when a pickleball player hits the ball with their paddle — was disrupting their sleep and heightening stress.

Tennis BC published a statement in February 2021 that advises pickleball courts to be located at least 150 metres from surrounding homes

One resident in particular, who lived approximately 90 metres from the courts, told The Tri-City News in 2022 she had written multiple letters to politicians and Coquitlam parks and bylaw staff to voice her concern with the noise.

In April 2021, pickleball courts were also removed from tennis courts at Chestnut Way Park in Port Moody due to the noise.

It’s not only noise complaints that have caused a racket in some neighbourhoods.

Last summer, tennis players in Vancouver raised fears about losing their court space to pickleball.

A petition dedicated to making sure no tennis courts were converted to pickleball in Vancouver racked up nearly 3,000 signatures before the city announced a temporary “pop up” pickleball court program that altered nine underused tennis courts for pickleball play.

McRitchie said PoCoMo has never had a problem with noise complaints or sharing court space with tennis players.

“I don’t recall anyone having a run-in,” she said. “We welcome everyone to come out and try pickleball. We’ve actually had a crossover of people who play both tennis and pickleball.”

Serving up more courts?

McRitiche said Port Moody was looking at adding two more outdoor pickleball courts in the city: one at North Shore Community Park and the other near the Port Moody recreation centre — which currently has indoor courts available for booking and drop-in sessions.

But there are no imminent plans to build those courts.

“The City is aware of the increased demand for pickleball courts and is currently reviewing the suitability of potential locations for additional pickleball amenities,” stated Devin Jain, Port Moody’s acting general manager of community services, in an email to the Tri-Cities Dispatch.

But regardless of when, or if, more courts will be added, McRitchie said she hopes to continue growing the game of pickleball in the Tri-Cities.

Because, for her, and so many others, the sport is more than just a paddle and a ball.

“Many of our members said pickleball got them through COVID,” she said.

“It meant a lot that we were able to help a lot of people in that time.”

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