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by Kelly Campbell

Pickleball started making headlines towards the end of 2022 when the sport was banned at Seravalli Playground in the West Village of Manhattan. 

After a battle over blacktop space between adult picklers and park-goers, Seravalli Playground banned dinking in the park. 

Seravalli Playground has two designated pickleball courts, but park-goers in support of the ban told the New York Post that 12 matches would go on at any one time in all areas of the park. Park-goers say that pickleball players took up the space of about seven courts in an area previously shared by children playing, roller skaters, and more. 

Seravalli Park-goer and roller skater Robert Feign told the New York Post, “the pickleball players [were] always here.  You could not beat them out. One group would take a net down and another group would take over that space so it was impossible.”

For months, pro and anti-pickleball-in-the-park-New-Yorkers competed for space in the park. A petition with over 3,000 signatures called to remove pickleball players. New York Lawmakers, including West Village Councilman Erik Bottcher, ultimately decided to officially ban pickleball in the park at the end of 2022.  

Pickleball Growth So Far in NYC 

It’s clear that pickleball has infiltrated the Big Apple, but just how accessible is the sport to residents of the largest city in the country? 

The Seravalli Park sign that announced the ban even offers three other nearby parks –– 

JJ Walker Park, William Passannante Ballfield, and Gertrude Kelly Playground –– as alternative match locations for players.  

NYC Pickleball estimates that there are around 30 designated pickleball courts throughout the five boroughs: Manhattan (9), Brooklyn (9), Queens (3), the Bronx (1), and Staten Island (2). 

Pickleball in NYC is a huge opportunity for pickleball to grow throughout the country and the world. A pickleball explosion in the most populated city in the United States with an estimated  60% under the age of 44 is likely to attract more and younger players.

This pickleball ban and the following uproar is unprecedented; no other sports have caused issues in this way. Hopefully, the demand for pickleball will continue to grow and lead to the development of more NYC courts so more New Yorkers can play the game. 

Pickleball Publicity After the Ban 

This ban has created a lot of buzz around pickleball, and in this case, it seems that all publicity is good publicity. The Seravalli Park ban has been reported on by numerous major news outlets, including Fox, The Washington Post, CBS, and more. 

Despite remarkable pickleball growth over the past few years, specifically in 2022 with all-star athlete MLP purchases and Stephen Colbert’s Pickled special, some people still have never heard about pickleball. The coverage that this ban has gotten over the past few weeks has likely introduced an untapped audience to the game and will hopefully encourage people to pick up a paddle and see what the pickleball obsession is all about. 

Sources – 

NYC Pickleball

New York Post