The city officially opened the new recreational space in Crescent Park on Sept. 15, and Surrey RCMP said less than three days later — on the night of Sept. 17 — vandals broke in.
The damage includes a hole cut in the fence, damaged asphalt and nets and a burned shade tarp.
“It’s definitely intentional what has happened with this vandalism, it’s not a random person who came in and decided to do it,” Surrey RCMP Const. Sarbjit Sangha said.
But why would someone intentionally damage a brand new civic facility? The park’s pickleball players have their own theories.
“Like most vandalism, you don’t understand it,” player Bruce Loeppky told Global News.
“There’s certain people who don’t like pickleball because of the noise.”
That shouldn’t have been a problem with the new facility.
Until it opened, pickleball players were using tennis courts located much closer to homes, where players acknowledge the loud whacking sounds the balls make could be annoying to some residents.
Sangha confirmed the RCMP had received complaints about players at those courts — but said there had not been any complaints about the new ones, which were intentionally built in a more isolated area.
“Now the court has actually moved away from the residential area, and this new court has just opened last week. So right now, regarding the motive, we don’t know,” she said.
Player Gus Romanelli said the scores of players that flock to the new courts believe the vandal or vandals were people who felt the new courts intrude on a more nature-focused part of the park.
“People don’t like noise, and they’ve been using this as a nice walkway, peaceful, so somebody was upset with that,” he said.
“That’s most people’s theory … people like their spaces, they don’t like change. We’re disappointed because we know it wasn’t kids. They sent a message they don’t want us here.”
Despite what players feel is a targeted attack, everyone Global News spoke with Tuesday said they wouldn’t let the vandalism stop them from enjoying the sport they love.
In fact, the sport is surging. Surrey’s pickleball club now boasts some 600 members, Leoppky said.
“Once you hit 50, you cannot run around on a tennis court, not an average person,” he said. “All the people who used to play tennis, badminton … squash, they’ve all gravitated to this.”
Romanelli said the club has doubled in size since he joined four years ago, and it’s already getting difficult to find court time with the existing facilities.
“Everybody can play and pick it up in a very short time. And it’s good for you, you’re always moving. And it’s also very social,” he said.
While the game has proven popular with seniors, player Della Li said it’s also winning fans among all age groups.
“The more you play, the more you want to play. It’s not just physical, it’s a mental game too. For me, it’s like playing chess.”
“A lot of Asian people are very much in love with this game because we came from a racket background … but this sport is for everyone, all ages, not just seniors. Young people too.”
Surrey is not the first B.C. municipality to see friction over the new and growing sport.
The City of Victoria removed courts from Todd Park earlier this spring after noise complaints from neighbours.
And this summer, North Saanich hired security to enforce hours on pickleball courts following noise complaints about games at late hours.
In a statement, the City of Surrey said it was still assessing the cost of the damage to the new courts, but that repair work was already underway.
It also urged anyone with information to contact police.