Thunder Bay

Pickleball players could face new guidelines when play returns to Thunder Bay

The chair of the Thunder Bay Pickleball Association says he believes any players returning to the sport in the city should expect more stringent gameplay guidelines.
A group plays pickleball indoors in this CBC file photo. Players in Thunder Bay, Ont., are associated with an outbreak of COVID-19. (Maria Burgos/CBC)

Pickleball players can expect more stringent guidelines when the game returns to Thunder Bay, warns the chair of the Thunder Bay Pickleball Association. 

The group itself doesn't schedule games or organize a league, but instead markets the sport and gets new people interested in the game, said association chair Toby Graveson.

Graveson said it's unfortunate that many of the players, of which he figured there are about 100 in the city, are either sick or isolating because of COVID-19.

Earlier this month, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit advised those who played the game at one of four locations to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms.

He said the provincial pickleball association has changed its guidelines for play, with different recommendations for the different stages of Ontario's COVID-19 framework.

League limits, racket hygiene

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit is currently in the yellow — or protect — zone. In that zone, the provincial association says doubles and singles play is allowed. It recommends pickleball programs cap at 10 people per room, indoors, with a maximum of 50 people per league.

Masks and physical distancing are required while indoors, but masks are not required for play. Leagues must keep appointments and attendance records, physical contact must be avoided and paddles and balls must be cleaned. 

The recommended guidelines become more strict as the health unit moves up the zones, with added limitations. There are some limits placed on play time and doubles play and spectators (except for child supervision) are not allowed in the orange — or restrict — zone.

Masks are not required during play in any of the zones, but if the area were to enter lockdown, all pickleball facilities would be closed.

Multiple player bubbles

Graveson told CBC Thunder Bay until this month's outbreak, things seemed to be going rather well. 

"I was [happy] playing ... outside with the closed bubble, and we got inside, and assumed it was going to be closed, but, it wasn't as much as we thought it would be," Graveson said, referring to how different locations allowed players to move between facilities to play the game.

At one location, said Graveson, players had to use an app to schedule their game, with another facility having an invite-only policy. Another location had an eight-person bubble, allowing players two hours, once a week to play.

"They had multiple bubbles," he said. Graveson said he played at multiple facilities, as he took part in pickleball six or seven times a week. 

Graveson said he's now decided not to play this winter, and will wait until at least the spring before jumping back in. 

"Get back outside, maybe start playing again, but in a closed group," he said. 


Jeff Walters


Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.


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