“I’m super into it. I just won my first tournament last weekend,” Wardian says, taking a breather from playing and a sporting a pink T-Mobile shirt and hat.
The 47-year-old Wardian is probably most well-known to area residents for his running feats, including completing seven marathons in seven days on seven continents, running more than 260 miles in a loop around the Arlington Forest neighborhood, and winning the inaugural Marine Corps 50k in 2019.
But now, he’s on to pickleball.
“There’s a sense of newness and beginning something [with pickleball],” Wardian says. “With running, if I want to do something I haven’t done before, I’ve got to do…something pretty huge to have some freshness. It’s fun to be a newbie at something.”
He only started playing the sport a few months ago, in May, when a friend asked him to join a game while in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. He ran out to Walmart, grabbed a paddle, and played five games.
“And I just fell in love with it,” Wardian says. “I was like, ‘man, this is like the coolest sport ever.’ I thought it was an old person’s sport.”
While it’s true that pickleball began as a preferred sport for older adults due to its low-impact on joints, it has since grown in popularity with younger adults and, even, kids. There are now more than four million players nationwide, according to the USA Pickleball Association. That number includes Wardian.
“I had no idea how much skill was involved or how addictive it could be,” he says.
While there isn’t complete overlap, Wardian’s ultramarathon skill set has come in handy on the pickleball court. His discipline, endurance, and tall stature all have come in handy.
“I cover a lot of ground,” Wardian says. “I can get to almost any ball. I’m tall and long, so I have good reach.”
One of the pickleball skills he’s working on is controlling his shots and not hammering the ball so hard so it goes out of bounds.
But he’s learning quickly. He estimates he’s invested about 150 hours into the sport so far and is already doing well in tournaments. In fact, Wardian is considering becoming a pro pickleball player. The top players can make tens of thousands of dollars in winnings, not to mention sponsorship dollars.
Because of his running, Wardian has sponsorship deals with local businesses District Taco, Pacers, and MedStar Health as well as T-Mobile (hence, the shirt and hat). Now, he’s looking to get some for his pickleball prowess and is speaking with online retailer Pickleball Clearance about opportunities. He’s also hoping to become an ambassador for the sport through the US Pickleball Association.
“I just want to grow the audience and get more people excited about the sport,” he says.
Pickleball hasn’t been the only thing filling Wardian’s time in recent months. He’s also an owner and partner of Potomac Maritime, working with carriers and ships carrying humanitarian aid and food cargo, which is his main source of income.
Unsurprisingly, Wardian is good at chess too and plays in chess tournaments. He’s also part of several clubs (including the Arlington Chess Club), and coaches the game to younger players.
At one point, he compares chess to pickleball, saying both are about placement, strategy, and knocking the opponent off balance.
“You set up your shot,” he says. “You hit one shot to knock them back and, then, when they’re back, you can put the ball somewhere else.”
For Wardian, no matter what he’s competing in, he is always striving to be at a high level. There is a sharp competitive edge to it all, but his hardest opponent is himself.
“I like seeing what’s possible,” he says. “I like challenging myself.”
When asked what’s the next sport or activity for him to master, he rattles off cycling, surfing, open water swimming, and deep sea fishing. It’s clear he’s already thought about the future.
After talking and a few photos, he heads back to the pickleball court. An average game of pickleball takes about 20 to 25 minutes, but he’s still harping on the last game he played that lasted only about ten minutes.
“We got our asses kicked,” Wardian says. “But we will get the next one.”
Pentagon Metro Station Reopening — “Metro will reopen the Pentagon Station and Pentagon Transit Center to customers beginning with the start of bus and rail service Thursday morning. The station and transit center has been closed since early Tuesday, due to the law enforcement response and investigation following a fatal incident that occurred in the bus bays.” [WMATA]
Chamber Supports Langston Blvd Plan — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce broadly supports the Plan Lee Highway Scenario Analysis, providing for additional commercial and residential density in an established, aging, yet vibrant and critical transit corridor. Moreover, the Chamber encourages creating flexible land use policies and regulations so as to attract investment to the Langston Boulevard corridor.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
ACPD Celebrates ‘National Night Out’ — “Across the nation and throughout the region, neighbors and police mingled Tuesday night in the National Night Out — an annual effort to fight crime by building relationships between communities and police. In Drew Park, nestled in Arlington County, Virginia’s historic Green Valley neighborhood, a DJ played music and children petted a yellow Lab K-9, while their parents huddled together with police officers including Chief Charles ‘Andy’ Penn.” [WTOP]
New Community Center Profiled — “This is a story about a building, but it’s also a story about a park, which flows into the building, driving the structure’s design to an unusually high degree. Located in Arlington, Virginia’s Lubber Run Park–a public recreation area with walking trails and a gentle stream winding through a forest–the Lubber Run Community Center replaces an outdated building from the 1950s that was torn down in 2018.” [Metropolis]
Mini Earthquake Shook Area Yesterday — “A small earthquake shook parts of Central Maryland in the overnight hours of Wednesday morning. The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 2.1 earthquake was centered in Clarksville, Maryland, at 2:11 a.m. with a depth of about 1.8 miles.” [WTOP]
A crowd of just under 3,000 well-wishers assembled feet from the doors of the Lubber Run Community Center, near Ballston, which just opened to the public earlier this month after serving as a vaccination site.
Biden’s motorcade arrived at the park at 6:50 p.m., after speeding past restaurants and onlookers in Arlington, according to a White House press pool report. There were “a couple dozen protesters” of various stripes outside the event, including those against fracking, oil pipelines, and abortion.
After arriving, Biden spoke with a group of DACA recipients, met with McAuliffe, and took photos with numerous state and local officials. He took the stage around 8 p.m. and spoke for about 30 minutes, highlighting his agreement with McAuliffe on just about every every issue.
The president talked about jobs, increasing the minimum wage, and veteran assistance, while also criticizing McAuliffe’s Republican opponent in the race, Glenn Youngkin. He also expressed concern about rising Covid numbers.
Biden complimented current Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam efforts in helping to “get shots in arms,” but said there’s still work to be done.
“What we have now is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Biden said.
The president also noted, if McAuliffe is elected, he would once again be the First Lady Jill Biden’s boss, due to her being a professor at Northern Virginia Community College.
As the president spoke, uniformed Secret Service members with large binoculars watched over the crowd from the roof of the community center. At least one helicopter also buzzed overhead.
At one point, a group of hecklers started shouting something about a pipeline.
“This is not a Trump rally,” Biden said, according to the pool report. “Let ’em holler. No one’s paying attention.”
Prior to Biden and McAuliffe speaking, Dr. Leonard N. Smith, Senior Minister of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Green Valley, gave an invocation. McAuliffe later came out to Mark Morrison’s 1996 hit Return of the Mack before speaking for about 15 minutes. (“Returnofthemack” was also the event’s WiFi password.)
Other speakers included a bevy of Democrats: Virginia Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn, lieutenant governor candidate Hala Ayala, Attorney General Mark Herring, Northam and Rep. Don Beyer.
Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti, County Board members Takis Karantonis and Katie Cristol, Arlington School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen, School Board member Monique O’Grady, Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, and Del. Alfonso Lopez were also in attendance.
“Welcome to Arlington, the healthiest county in Virginia,” Beyer, Arlington’s representative in Congress, declared when he spoke.
This, of course, isn’t the first — nor, likely, the last — time Biden has come across the Potomac, but this is the first time many locals can remember a president has come to their neighborhood.
Ray Payton lives in Buckingham and grew up nearby, graduating from Yorktown High School.
“I don’t know when a president has come to the neighborhood before,” Payton said earlier in the evening. “And I’ve been here all of my life.”
Balvinder Sehmi lives just a few doors down from the community center, in a house she’s lived in for 47 years. This is also the only insistence she can remember of a president stopping by.
“I’m surprised he’s here,” she said excitedly, above the din of the crowd. “I’m going to tell people he was at my house.”
“After opening the park in fall 2020, and now that the vaccination clinic has ended, it’s time to prepare to open the new center,” the Department of Parks and Recreation said in an email. “Come by the gym, fitness center and indoor track.”
Fitness memberships are required for those working out at the center.
Construction started on the new community center in 2018. It was set to open in late 2020, but due to budget cuts the opening of the community center lagged behind that of the park’s playgrounds and courts, which made their debut last September.
At the time, the county said the community center would open “sometime after July 2021, which is the start of the County’s next fiscal year.”
Before the official opening, the customer service desk will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting next Monday (June 21). Staff will be available to accept forms for in-person summer camp, fee reductions, facility rentals and program and class registrations.
“Shortly after the facility opens, we will host a ribbon-cutting and community celebration,” according to the email, which added that more information on this event will be announced later.
The parks department did not hold a ribbon-cutting for the playground and courts when they opened in September due to the pandemic, Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish previously said.
This summer, the hours for the center will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Those operating hours are set to be extended later this year.
“This fall, the center will be open later, and on Sundays too,” the email said. “Indoor programming, such as the senior center and preschool, will return this fall.”
The community center and park at the intersection of N. George Mason Drive and N. Park Drive is across the street from Barrett Elementary School and is walkable from Ballston. Parking is also available.
Arlington County will be conducting its first mass vaccination event this weekend.
On Saturday, starting around 9 a.m., about 1,500 people will receive doses of the new one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Lubber Run Community Center (300 N. Park Drive). The recently-built community center is just a few blocks from Ballston.
While Arlington has been vaccinating people by the hundreds at a county office building, sometimes leading to long lines, this is the first instance of what the county is calling a “mass vaccination clinic.” (Vaccinations have also been taking place at the Walter Reed Community Center.)
Only those pre-registered for the vaccine on the state’s Vaccinate Virginia website and scheduled for the clinic will receive doses. No walk-ups will be offered.
Arlington is currently vaccinating residents 65 and older, as well as those 18-64 with certain medical conditions. Some frontline workers are also being vaccinated.
County officials described the mass vaccination event as a “pilot” that will establish a new distribution point and help speed vaccine distribution down the road.
“This single-dose vaccine may be desirable for people who want to complete their immunization schedule quickly, do not want to return for a second dose, or have difficulty returning for a second dose,” said Dr. Reuben Varghese, Arlington County Public Health Director, in a press release. “This also gives us an opportunity to pilot operations at a new vaccination site for potential future use in vaccine administration.”
“This new vaccine option will provide increased opportunity for our community, particularly those who may have difficulty in scheduling a second dose of the vaccine,” said County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti. “We want everyone to know that our goal is to get as many vaccines distributed each week as possible. This pilot site reinforces our ability to scale our vaccine rollout quickly and efficiently as new supply becomes available.”
The 1,500 doses of the J&J vaccine offered Saturday is in addition to Arlington’s weekly allotment of about 3,000 first doses of the other, two-dose COVID-19 vaccines from the state.
To date, nearly 40,000 vaccine doses have been administered in Arlington County, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.
The newly-built Lubber Run Community Center remains shuttered, but the new playground and athletic courts outside of it quietly opened over the weekend.
“After five years of planning and development, the new amenities at Lubber Run Park are open,” Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish confirmed to ARLnow.
“There are multi-purpose lighted courts for pickleball, volleyball and basketball along with a playground featuring a large net climber, sand box and group swings,” Kalish said. “And check out the hill slides, first ever in Arlington! The park also offers a large, open manicured lawn for you to picnic on, toss a frisbee or read a book, great spaces to connect with the neighbors. And the boardwalk brings the community center into the Lubber Run Park forest.”
No ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for the park, as a result of the pandemic, according to Kalish.
The community center and park at 200 N. Columbus Street is across the street from Barrett Elementary and is walkable from Ballston. For those who want to check it out from a distance, parking is available.
“On-site parking is available in the new garage free-of-charge from 8 a.m.-10:15 p.m. through the fall,” Kalish said.
Photos by Jay Westcott and courtesy of Hannah S. Hat tip to Hannah S.
Construction is progressing at the new Lubber Run Community Center & Park (300 N. Park Drive), with crews currently working to widen the sidewalk in front of the property.
As a result, a lane closure will start next week along S. George Mason Drive. One lane along N. George Mason Drive between the Carlin Springs Road bridge and Park Drive will close starting Monday, November 11, per the project website.
The lane will reopen in mid-December, depending on construction progress. Barriers will be installed in the meantime to allow for safe pedestrian travel.
The approximately $48 million project will result in a new gymnasium, walking track, fitness center, and multi-purpose rooms, according to project manager Peter Lusk.
“It is still on-schedule for a late 2020 opening,” Lusk said.
The original community center was built in 1956. When the county closed the old building last year, they gave people a change to decorate its walls with art ahead of the demolition.
(Updated at 4:00 p.m.) Last week’s torrential rainstorm flooded thousands of homes and businesses — but something mysterious happened, too.
Just upstream from where it meets Four Mile Run, the Lubber Run stream disappeared.
Earlier this week the stream appeared to be miraculously vanishing around a tree stump, according to a video posted online and on a local listserv. The water was a trickle of its usual flow when a resident shot the video, and the stream left a dry bed of round rocks exposed after the water appeared to disappear.
At first, when contacted by ARLnow, all the Department of Environmental Services (DES) could say for sure was that the stream hadn’t been “rerouted intentionally.”
Jessica Baxter, a DES spokeswoman initially it could take days to find the reason for the phenomenon as storm clean-up continues county-wide and crews work on the damage the storm wrought to public areas.
Raging flood waters washed away at least six pedestrian bridges in the county, including two over Lubber Run.
— Brandon J⭕️nes (@btj) July 8, 2019
The department sent crews out Wednesday and Thursday to investigate the steam on a hunch the water could have somehow flowed into an underground pipe.
“There were a few trees that fell over the stream, including a stump that fell and possibly damaged our sewer main,” Baxter said on Thursday after crews visited the stream. “However, given the water entering the main, we are having challenges determining where the damage is.”
The crews then worked to divert the water — which had begun to swell again since its post-storm lull the resident captured in his video. Then the county crews used CCTV technology to inspect the pipe.
On Friday morning at 7 a.m., Baxter reached out to ARLnow to say crews had made a breakthrough.
“Crews got the tree stump removed from the area and we did observe a broken pipe,”she said. “We have our emergency contractor on-site to make repairs today.”
After the repairs to the pipe were completed later this afternoon, Baxter said crews are expected to return early next week for additional repair work, including inserting a liner into the pipe.
A 2011 assessment of all streams and their ability to prevent floods noted that many parts of Lubber Run were considered “stable,” but also noted that the stream had “poor utility elements” at the time.
Lubber Run is not just a feeder for Four Mile Run, it’s also a perfect habitat for underwater critters like crayfish and fly larvae, and snakes, snails, and worms make their home in the stream, which is lined by shaggy water elms.
ARLnow could not locate the mysterious tree dropping-off point after an hour of bushwhacking along the stream banks Tuesday afternoon. However, it was clear that the storm had left its mark in the area.
Bits of broken bridges were beached along the banks as far as Four Mile Run, and picnic tables were covered in silt after being swallowed by the rising water. The stream itself was brown with sediment and fallen tree limbs still littered the walking paths. A golden retriever could be seen jumping in and out of the stream with one of the thicker limbs in his mouth.
Lubber Run Project Budget Boosted — “Arlington County Board members on Sept. 22 agreed to add about $1.4 million to the budget for rebuilding Lubber Run Community Center, which will push the construction cost to $41.14 million and the management fees to $4.11 million.” [InsideNova]
Clarendon Circle Construction Begins — “Things will start looking different in Clarendon and not because of too many cosmos at Don Tito’s. The long-awaited Circle intersection improvements project kicks off today.” [Twitter]
Neighborhoods Want in on W-L Name Discussion — “The president of the Buckingham Community Civic Association thinks Arlington school leaders may need some remedial work in geography. Bernie Berne used the Sept. 20 School Board meeting to complain that his community had been shut out of the committee set up to suggest new names for Washington-Lee High School, even though it is closer to the school than another civic association that has been included on the panel.” [InsideNova]
Fire at Columbia Pike Building — On the 5100 block of Columbia Pike: “First arriving units found a fire contained to an appliance. The fire was extinguished. All occupants are safe & accounted for.” [Twitter, Twitter]
Tree Advocates Increase Pressure — “Another month has brought another round in the ongoing dispute between tree activists and the Arlington County Board – and much of the give and take on both sides is beginning to sound familiar to the point of repetitious. Activists in support of expanding the county’s tree canopy were among a number of advocacy groups that descended on the Sept. 22 County Board meeting. Among their chief complaints: The county government hasn’t done anything to prevent the removal of trees during an upcoming expansion project at Upton Hill Regional Park.” [InsideNova, Twitter]
Fox News Highlights Lucky Dog — Arlington’s Lucky Dog Rescue continues to get national attention for its work rescuing dogs from areas flooded by Hurricane Florence. Over the weekend Fox News broadcast from Shirlington to bring attention to the dogs that are now available for adoption. [Yahoo]
Construction work on the new Lubber Run Community Center is now set to start in just a few days, kicking off a years-long, nearly $48 million project.
The county’s Department of Parks and Recreation says construction should start in “early September,” with fencing going up to close the area to park visitors. The county closed down the old rec center, located at 300 N. Park Drive, early last month, then gave people a chance to decorate its walls with art ahead of its impending demolition.
The County Board agreed to move ahead with construction of the project last September, though Arlington officials have eyed a replacement for the Lubber Run facility for years now. The original community center was built back in 1956, and the two-story facility will provide anywhere from 45,000 to 55,000 square feet of new space at the site.
Construction is set to wrap up on the project sometime in 2020, prompting the relocation of a variety of community programs in the meantime. County parks staff have relocated to several locations around the county, while the Office of Senior Adult Programs moved to the Madison Community Center.
Meanwhile, the Lubber Run Creative Preschool has shifted over to the Langston-Brown Community Center, as have the “tot summer camps” held at the facility.
The “Kids-in-Action” Afterschool Program moved over to the Barrett Elementary Extended Day Program, and the county plans “to determine if the program will be revitalized in the new Lubber Run Community Center” moving forward.
A bridge for walkers and cyclists in Lubber Run Park is now closed, at least temporarily.
An alert on the county’s website says the bridge, closest to N. George Mason Drive as a trail runs over Lubber Run itself, will be closed “until further notice.”
A tipster first notified ARLnow about the closure on Friday (Aug. 3). County parks spokeswoman Susan Kalish says workers checked on the bridge while doing some park maintenance, and subsequently decided to close it.
“Our crew was concerned with the bridge but they aren’t bridge experts,” Kalish wrote in an email. “They closed the bridge and have scheduled a bridge expert to check it out.”
Kalish expects the county is “erring on the side of caution” with the closure, but she stressed that “safety is our number one concern.”
The county’s posted detour signs for anyone using the trail, and is directing walkers and bicyclists away from the bridge while work continues.
The park, located at 200 N. Columbus Street, was recently the site of a community gathering to pay tribute to the soon-to-be torn down Lubber Run Community Center.