When Vyomi Seth was just 6 years old, she started falling in love with the game of tennis.
She would go to the Hall Memorial Park tennis courts to play, bonding with her dad, Vikas Seth, who was also very much into the sport. Located right behind Curtner Elementary School, the courts were conveniently situated, tucked near the edge of a residential neighborhood.
Vyomi, along with other kids, would walk to the courts after school and play for hours; they developed their skills and built community with other fellow tennis players – some of whom had been playing tennis there for decades.
Now Vyomi is 18 years old, and she hasn’t been able to play tennis at Hall for the past year. This is due to the fact that Milpitas’ Pickleball Pilot Program has been using half of the tennis courts at Hall Park. With fewer courts available, Vyomi and her father haven’t been able to get easy access to play.
Vyomi, her father, and a large community of Hall Park tennis players are now fighting to save their tennis courts from being permanently converted into pickleball courts.
“These courts mean something to people. We’ve spent a long time building a community around these courts,” said Vyomi in an interview with The Beat.
For the past several years, pickleball has been the fastest growing sport in the United States. In August of 2022, after requests from a group of residents, the City of Milpitas started its Pickleball Pilot Program at both Hall Memorial Park and Peter Gill Park, in an effort to gauge interest in the sport. The Milpitas City Council even voted to allocate $100,000 for the creation of permanent pickleball courts.
In 2022, toward the end of July, notices were posted at Hall Park’s tennis courts, informing the community that the year-long Pickleball Pilot Program would be starting within days.
There are a total of four tennis courts at Hall Park. One of the notices stated that two out of the four courts would continue to be designated for tennis; one court would be dedicated solely to pickleball; and the remaining court would be “shared use,” or split between pickleball and tennis.
For the shared court, pickleball was to have priority on early weekdays (9am-2pm), later on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays (4pm-10pm), and on Sunday mornings (9am-2pm). Tennis would have priority during other times outside of these windows.
This meant that only two courts would be completely dedicated to tennis. For dozens of tennis players who were accustomed to having complete access to the four tennis courts every day, this was a big shift.
Lines were soon drawn to designate the pickleball areas. New nets were also brought in for the new sport. Since pickleball courts require less space than tennis courts, the City was able to draw lines for a total of six pickleball courts across two tennis courts.
In August of 2022, upon the launch of the Pickleball Pilot Program, pickleball players started coming out to Hall Park in droves, eager to make use of the temporary pickleball courts.
Vikas, who has been a frequent tennis player at the Hall courts for the past 12 years, shared his disappointment with The Beat:
“My wife calls this my second home. These four courts were always super-busy with tennis players, especially during non-working hours. When the City started the Pickleball Pilot Program a year ago, it came as a shock. No input was taken from the tennis community.”
Several tennis players told The Beat that although they were surprised, they knew that the program was temporary and would be over in a year. And so, they welcomed the pickleball players onto the courts and learned to adjust.
“With only two courts, we’ve had to rotate amongst ourselves,” said Payal Prasad, a Fremont resident who has been coming out to play regularly on the Hall tennis courts. And: “We’ve lost many of our regular players because we don’t get as much time to play now.”
The Pilot Program Ends
The Pickleball Pilot Program at Hall Park was popular, sometimes drawing in up to 70 pickleball players during a regular summer evening. There’s no question that the demand for pickleball is immense.
And although the Pickleball Pilot Program officially ended in August of 2023, pickleball players are still playing across two of the tennis courts over at Hall, while the City of Milpitas is trying to determine where to go from here.
On September 25, the City of Milpitas held a community meeting to discuss the possibility of permanently converting some or all of the tennis courts at Hall Park to pickleball courts. Hall tennis players say they were not made aware of the meeting…until just hours before it was starting. So they had no time to organize or prepare to attend.
“Nobody ever posted about the meeting on the tennis courts, so there was hardly any tennis representation at that meeting,” said Vikas. “It was called: Milpitas Pickleball Courts Community meeting. The headline itself is so biased.”
Thirty-five pickleball players ended up attending the meeting, while Hall tennis players say that only one of their members was able to show up.
The Hall tennis players, upset that they were not made aware of the meeting, sent emails to the City of Milpitas expressing their disapproval.
“As a tennis player, I am deeply disappointed that [the City] would hold such a meeting without including input from tennis players who use the courts at Hall Memorial Park on a daily basis. Tennis is a popular sport in our community, and tennis players deserve to have a voice in any decision that would affect their access to the courts,” wrote Mayank Patel in an email to the City.
A week later, on October 2, the City of Milpitas held a Parks, Recreation, & Cultural Resources commission meeting, where they further discussed the potential court conversion. This time, tennis players were sure to be in attendance. One hundred and two of them showed up to express their disappointment over the potential conversion of some or all tennis courts into pickleball courts, as well as the City not including tennis players in the process.
“We tennis players have lost our patience and we’re at a point where we want to claim all of our tennis courts back. They’re done with their pilot program and they had a good response, and that’s awesome. But give us our courts back,” said Nelli, a Milpitas resident who uses the courts regularly and only wishes to be referred to by his first name.
In results from a survey that the City of Milpitas conducted earlier this spring, 66% of respondents agreed that all four tennis courts at Hall Memorial Park should be converted into pickleball courts. However, the tennis players at Hall Park say that they were never given the opportunity to take the survey.
“The City’s documents are so biased. The City officials are always communicating with the pickleball players – everything they’re doing shows bias toward them. The survey results are misleading,” shared Vikas.
Sushant Agrawal, who has been a resident of Milpitas for the past six years, often tries to come out to the Hall Courts to play tennis with his daughter.
“We come here on the weekends at 6:30am in the morning, just to try and get access to one of the tennis courts,” said Agrawal.
Agrawal told The Beat that at that early time, there are no pickleball players on the courts; however, since two courts are designated for pickleball, tennis players are unable to use them.
Rajan Naik has been a resident of Milpitas for over 30 years. He has been playing tennis at the Hall courts for the past 25 years. He’s part of a group of a dozen other tennis players that comes out to Hall Park on the weekends at 6:30am to make sure to claim access to a court.
“When I came here to the U.S., I started playing tennis. It’s a fantastic game,” Naik told The Beat. “I don’t want to lose any of these courts at all.”
Stephen Balsbaugh has lived in the same house in Milpitas since 1972. He has been leading the effort in getting the City to invest in permanent pickleball courts in Milpitas. Balsbaugh has been instrumental in advocating for the pickleball courts and spurring the City to launch its pilot program.
In an interview with The Beat, Balsbaugh said that due to the heavy demand for pickleball, he feels that the City should convert three of the Hall Park tennis courts into pickleball courts, and leave one court available for tennis players.
Balsbaugh and others formed a Milpitas Pickleball Club membership; to date, 150 members have joined. Their Pickleball WhatsApp group has 437 participants. And Blausbaugh estimates that about 300 people play pickleball at Hall per week.
“This past Monday, I took photos of pickleball that evening at Hall, and we had 40 people playing. On the other side, there was nobody playing tennis,” Balsbaugh told The Beat. “But there was one instructor teaching six kids and giving lessons.”
Balsbaugh stated that he often sees an instructor teaching paid tennis lessons on the court to students, which isn’t allowed.
“In deference to the tennis community, there ought to be at least one tennis court at Hall,” said Balsbaugh. “We had a good working relationship with the tennis community, and we feel they should have at least one court.”
The Hall tennis players told The Beat that about 200 tennis players use the Hall Courts — and they feel that it isn’t fair to compare the amount of pickleball players to tennis players. Two tennis courts can accommodate 24 pickleball players at one time, and only up to 8 tennis players – and that’s if they’re playing doubles.
The Sound of Pickleball
Along with the increase in pickleball players comes an increase in sound. All over the country, news reports show that the sound of pickleball has led to lawsuits and arguments. When a pickleball racket hits the ball, the decibel level can get to 70 dBA from 100 feet away.
Milpitas resident Michelle Eacret lives near Robert E. Browne Park, where some pickleball players have been setting up their own nets over tennis courts to play since the start of the pandemic. She and other neighbors have been bothered by the sounds of pickleball for the last few years.
“They usually play late in the afternoon into the evening, and all weekend,” Eacret told The Beat. “I can stand in the front yard and hear them playing pickleball. The sound carries.”
The courts are situated right behind Eacret’s house, and she can hear the sound even when her windows are shut. She has tried to reach out to the City of Milpitas to see if anything can be done, but she says that no one has been helpful.
“They told me to look at the City’s Municipal Code and let them know if I could find something that would apply,” said Eacret. “I found there were no City regulations on the courts.”
Eacret was told by a city worker to call 9-1-1 if the noises are bothering her. But Eacret feels that that isn’t truly a solution and that Milpitas should think about working to create better rules and regulations in their code.
In the case of Hall Park, tennis players say a neighbor spoke at the recent October 2 commission meeting to complain about the disruptive pickleball sounds.
When The Beat asked Balsbaugh about the pickleball sounds, he mentioned that the neighbors he spoke to said the sound wasn’t a problem for them. Although he did mention that neighbors expressed concern about parking. With all the pickleball players coming onto the courts, the park’s small parking lot and surrounding residential streets have been packed with vehicles; and it’s often challenging to find a nearby spot.
Looking for a Way Forward
Currently, across Milpitas, there are 25 tennis courts located at parks like Hall, Dixon Landing, Peter Gill, and Pinewood.
Milpitas also has a total of 8 temporary pickleball courts – the 6 at Hall, along with 2 at Peter Gill Park, which were placed over handball courts as part of the pilot program. There are also 6 temporary indoor courts located inside the Milpitas Sports Center.
At this week’s Milpitas City Council meeting, a handful of tennis players came out to speak during Public Comment about the need to save the tennis courts from conversion. Deputy City Manager Matt Cano told everyone that there would be another community meeting, and that they would make sure everyone was invited.
In an interview with The Beat, Councilmember Hon Lien said that the City staff was working hard to try to find a solution. She’s asked staff to do an inventory of all potential sites in Milpitas, to see if there’s an ideal spot for permanent pickleball courts.
“We are trying hard here, and we’ll do our best to accommodate both tennis and pickleball,” Lien told The Beat.
Lien also stated that they were talking about conducting another survey to ensure that tennis players are surveyed.
Balsbaugh told The Beat that at Milpitas High School (MHS), there are a group of tennis courts that sit unused during nonschool hours. He feels that the City should coordinate with the Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) to open those courts to residents, thus bringing more tennis courts to the City.
Meanwhile, the Hall tennis community hopes to keep up the momentum they’ve built over the last few weeks to ensure that their voices are heard.
“They came in to occupy our tennis courts temporarily, and now they’re trying to make it permanent. That’s not fair,” said Nelli. “This is heavily messed up. Our request is this: Just give us our four courts back.”