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Morning Poll: After last night’s Colbert segment, pick a position on pickleball

Pickleball under the lights at Lubber Run (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Ahh pickleball, the hottest thing going with senior citizens, Tom Brady’s retirement sport of choice, and an unlikely candidate for the second-most controversial story of the decade in Arlington.

As ARLnow was first to report last year, many neighbors of Arlington’s recently-established pickleball courts have come to vehemently oppose it, owing to the loud “pop” the ball makes when it hits a paddle. The percussive sound can be heard within nearby houses, at all hours of the day and — in the case of lighted courts — into the night.

It’s so infuriating to some neighbors, that there have been organized efforts against the pickleball courts, including threats of lawsuits, in at least two Arlington neighborhoods.

That culminated last month in a campaign of dueling pro- and anti-pickleball flyers and posters distributed around Penrose and the Walter Reed Community Center, where the county is planning to build a sizable cluster of dedicated pickleball courts.

From ARLnow’s Feb. 13 story:

In a flyer that’s now being disseminated around the neighborhood, opponents are leveling accusations of “bullying of our children by pickleball players,” “public urination on playground and sensory garden,” and causing “excessive continuous noise from dawn to 10 p.m. every day.”

If more pickleball courts are added, it will even be more of a “public nuisance” the flyer says. It does not go into greater detail about the accusations.

“Arlington County is giving away our rights to Walter Reed Community Center (WRCC) to build a dedicated Pickleball Cluster,” it reads. “Current issues will get worse with conversion of 3 tennis to 9 pickleball courts.”

The fracas was noted a few days ago by Axios, which led to a lampooning last night on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. (See 0:52)

Arlington is not alone in stirring up a full-blown pickleball controversy.

In the Boston ‘burb of Wellesley, Mass., news crews descended last week as townsfolk near pickleball courts rattled their sabres against the infernal pop, a matter of civic concern for at least a few months. Pitched pickleball opposition over in Cape Cod prompted the hiring of noise-control consultants and a Wall Street Journal article last summer.

Pickleball players, of course, are inclined to defend their sport, which is rocketing in popularity as a recreational activity and attracting the attention of celebrities, pro athletes and large companies. There are hopes that pickleball paddles and balls will evolve and become quieter. But that’s not going to stop people from playing and there’s an argument to be made that the noise isn’t that bad all the way across the street from a court.

For the time being, though, it’s undeniable that outdoor pickleball can be loud and annoying to at least some neighbors. Which side of the proverbial net are you on?

Hat tip to Flood Czar

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