Next week, Long Beach is set to install sound-muffling panels at a park in Bixby Knolls. The reason? Everyone’s favorite sport: pickleball.

The panels are the city’s solution to complaints from residents near Somerset Park that dozens of pickleball players are showing up at the park every day, generating hours of noise they can hear even with their windows closed.

At a City Council meeting last month, resident Sean Charles told city leaders he’s tried earplugs and noise-canceling headphones to no avail; the action on the pickleball courts is about the same piercing volume as a garbage truck’s back-up beeping.

Plus, Charles said, the players take up all the street parking and sometimes park illegally, and their large gatherings overwhelm the small neighborhood park to the point that residents can’t use it.

“Don’t put pickleball close to homes. Don’t put it in a park that doesn’t have a parking lot,” he said.

Anti-pickleball sentiment hasn’t quite reached the fever pitch here that it has in other communities, where some residents have filed lawsuits over the noise (one article describes a consulting business formed exclusively to reduce pickleball noise).

But Long Beach officials are taking the complaints from around Somerset Park seriously.

“From what we understand, the sport of pickleball is noisier than the sport of tennis,” and because the play area is smaller, one tennis court can hold up to 16 people playing pickleball, Parks, Recreation and Marine Department Director Brent Dennis said in a July interview.

Noel Buenaventura, 54, plays pickleball in Somerset Park in Long Beach Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Dennis has met with the Somerset Park neighbors several times, he said, and “a lot of their challenges really are about the numbers of people coming there.”

The city has already adjusted the park lights to turn off at 9 p.m. instead of an hour later, and the sound panels should go in starting Wednesday, Aug. 30. Officials are also considering painting some curb sections red to deter people from blocking residents’ driveways.

While Dennis said in July that Marina Vista Park also was being considered for sound panels, his assistant said in an email this week that there is not currently funding to install the panels at any other parks.

Councilmember Kristina Duggan, whose district includes Marina Vista, said she hasn’t gotten any complaints about noise, and in fact, the city may add more tennis courts so the park’s existing courts can be reserved for pickleball.

Dennis said this fall the city will build dedicated pickleball courts at DeForest and Veterans parks, and Recreation Park is slated to get up to a dozen pickleball courts next to the Billie Jean King Tennis Center.