Local residents can now weigh in on the “future of pickleball” at the Walter Reed Community Center.
A survey was sent out earlier this week by the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation (DPR) asking the community to provide input and feedback about the new outdoor pickleball courts coming to the community center at 2909 16th Street S., south of Columbia Pike.
The dedicated courts will replace the tennis courts that are currently there.
The survey asks a series of questions, some with multiple choice answers and some with a text box, including the survey taker’s “current relationship” with the community center, how often they use the pickleball courts already there, and when they typically play.
“Noise is a concern associated with pickleball play,” reads the question. “The County is committed to incorporating sound reduction measures as part of this project. What are some creative ideas to consider?”
Locals have through Tuesday, February 28 to provide the county with their thoughts.
Residents voted in November, as part of the bond referendum, to spend $2 million to convert and update existing tennis courts into pickleball courts across the county, including at Walter Reed.
The plan is to convert the current tennis court area into nine dedicated pickleball courts by adding pavement, netting, lighting, fencing, and other needed equipment. There will also be seating, shade, signage, landscaping, ADA-accessible walkways, and “sound reduction measures.” As part of the project, the basketball court will also be converted back to its original use.
This online survey is actually the “start” of the engagement process for the project, DPR spokesperson Martha Holland told ARLnow in an email.
“The County wants to hear from all stakeholders to create a project that serves the pickleball community while fitting into the community context,” she wrote. “The online feedback form is the first step to gather input to inform concept designs. The County hopes to learn and gain insights on a wide range of issues from uses and user experience, as well as considerations, designs, and demographics – to ensure we’re hearing from as many community members as possible.”
Community meetings are set to be held throughout this year to discuss the project, per a recently published timeline on the county’s website. The first is planned for Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at Walter Reed, Holland said.
There are expected to be additional community meetings and online surveys throughout the year, with several currently scheduled for the spring and summer.
“It is important to make sure that as many people as possible are aware of this project and have a chance to provide input throughout,” Holland said.
With all of this community engagement, construction of the pickleball courts is being pushed back.
Construction is not expected to start for more than a year from now, in spring 2024, per the timeline. Completion is estimated for early 2025, a full two years from now.
As courts increased, though, so did complaints from some locals about the noise.
When a pickleball hits a paddle, it can often produce a loud pop sound that has become infamously known as “pickleball pop.” This has led DPR to close certain public courts that are situated near homes. At least one court was eventually reopened.
Then, late last year, two citizen groups threatened legal action against the county.
This included a number of neighbors who live across the street from Walter Reed with one resident saying the noise already coming from the courts was “excessive” and “intrusive.” That resident told ARLnow at the time they did not support the plan to build even more outdoor courts.
“It sounds really comical, but when you live across the street from an endless stream of just popping, it’s not funny,” they said.
Christmas and Hanukkah are nearly here, which is undoubtedly provoking panic among last-minute shoppers.
Luckily, ARLnow has an Arlington-centric holiday gift guide for all those who looking for the perfect present for the the gondola fans and local literature enthusiasts in you life.
Below are eight great, last-minute Arlington-related gifts.
Money helps supports the local non-profit Real Food for Kids. The auction ends next week, on Dec. 22.
This summer, local elected officials again introduced joint legislation to remove Robert E. Lee’s name from the historic home at Arlington National Cemetery. While the bills stalled, it was actually George Washington Parke Custis who had the house built to honor George Washington.
With word coming that a new indoor dog park and bar may be replacing Green Valley’s New District Brewing, now is the time to stuff those stockings with beer.
Four packs of beer, including the National Landing IPA and Potomac Paddleboarder Blonde Ale, are available in the taproom whenever the brewery is open. All the beer is now packaged at their facility with its crowd-funded canning line.
Help that little Arlingtonian in your life to learn local history with this book written by community leader Wilma Jones.
It tells the story of a third grader in 1955 who visits the Halls Hill fire station. For decades, Fire Station 8 was the only one in Arlington that was staffed by African-Americans.
The county is providing a chance to get in on the craze by offering pickleball classes for all ages. The classes begin in February and continue through April, but can be purchased now.
But be careful about where you play so the county doesn’t get sued.
Demolition day may be looming for the building that once housed legendary Inner Ear Studios, but the recording studio still lives in Don Zientara’s Arlington basement. Some have called it “the Abbey Road of Arlington.”
A t-shirt with the original Inner Ear logo is available from ARLnow on Amazon.
Ballston resident Isa Seyran serves up dishy stories in his new book detailing working in the local restaurant scene.
The subject of a recent ARLnow Press Club feature, Seyran shares a number of anecdotes in the book about working for some of the most famous chefs in the D.C. area.
Sure, it’s actually Arlington, Texas that’s getting an XFL team, and not Arlington, Virginia, but that didn’t dissuade us from asking readers on social media what they would have named the football team.
One answer stood out:
The Arlington Gondoliers
- Bonus: Items from a local holiday market
If you are still in need of more last-minute gifts, the Forever Grateful Market in Crystal City is happening this weekend.
More neighbors are threatening legal action because of the infamous pickleball pop.
A resident living near the Walter Reed Community Center tells ARLnow that the noise coming from the nearby pickleball courts is “excessive” and constant, to the point that that a group of neighbors is “contemplating a lawsuit of our own” against the county.
“Our community center, with its 9 courts, has become ‘pickleball central,'” Ashley, a resident who lives near the community center, wrote to ARLnow in an email. “We believe the excessive playtime that generates a loud, constant popping sound negatively impacts our quality of life and property value.”
ARLnow received an additional call from a nearby resident, reiterating many of these claims and decrying the loud “pop” made when a pickleball hits a paddle.
The eight households involved all live on 16th Street S., across the street from the community center. They have joined together in asking the county to do something about the crowds and noise coming from the pickleball courts, per Ashley. She’s asked that her last name be withheld for privacy reasons.
In recent weeks, the residents met with Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation, a couple of County Board members, and the Columbia Heights Civic Association to make their concerns known.
So far, discussions haven’t produced the outcome they are hoping for: enforcing court hours, closing some pickleball courts, and reconsideration of plans to potentially add more courts. They believe that the noise coming from the courts is in violation of the county’s noise ordinance.
The group says they’re considering legal action along similar lines to what the Old Glebe Civic Association has discussed, as previously reported by ARLnow.
“None of us want to put an end to pickleball. Everybody has a right to use the park and its services,” Ashley said. “It’s just excessive. It’s loud and it’s very intrusive.”
Earlier this month, Old Glebe Civic Association also began considering legal action due to the ending of a pilot program that had closed a pickleball court at Glebe Road Park. The court’s recent reopening has made the noise issue even “more contentious,” with the civic association’s leadership saying that “a solution short of litigation appears unlikely.”
Ashley said when she and her neighbors read that story, it seemed like confirmation that their situation also would not be resolved without some sort of legal action. Ashley has lived in her home on 16th Street S. for about five years, but it was this past summer when the noise became “maddening.”
Pickleball has taken Arlington — and the U.S. generally — by storm over the last few years. This year, however, the sport seemingly grew beyond the county’s current capacity, prompting a tug-of-war between those who want more pickleball facilities, neighbors concerned about noise, and the players of other sports — particularly tennis — who stand to lose courts to the pickleball juggernaut.
Ashley said that there were times over the summer and into the fall when she could hear the pop of the ball hitting the paddle starting at 5 a.m. and not stopping until 11 p.m — 18 hours a day.
Reading the comments on previous ARLnow pickleball stories, she knows her complaints can seem ridiculous to some, but she insists they are legit.
“It sounds really comical, but when you live across the street from an endless stream of just popping, it’s not funny,” she said.
Ashley and other neighbors met with local parks and rec officials in October, a meeting the department confirmed to ARLnow. The neighbors asked DPR to limit court hours, close some courts to pickleball to allow other sports to be played, and better monitor the noise coming from the courts.
They also expressed their disappointment in not being formally consulted about the possibility of new courts coming to Walter Reed.
“We were not consulted as a community, nor do we support this plan,” she said.
(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A local civic association says a lawsuit may be imminent over the infamous pickleball pop.
In a recent community newsletter, Old Glebe Civic Association leaders detailed their displeasure with the county ending a pilot program that closed a popular standalone pickleball court at Glebe Road Park earlier this year.
The program was initially enacted as a means to mitigate the noise of the loud pop sound produced by a pickleball hitting a paddle that was bothering some close-by neighbors, primarily those who live on a dead-end block near the courts.
The OGCA called that pilot program a “compromise” since it also looked to appease players by restriping a nearby tennis court for pickleball so there were now four courts, as opposed to the previous three. But with the program now being “abandoned,” the newsletter says, “the noise issue has become more contentious.”
The county has since proposed another pilot program that would reopen the standalone pickleball court but with limited hours and surrounded by a “noise reducing fence,” a spokesperson with the Department of Parks and Recreation tells ARLnow.
However, the OGCA opposes any reopening of the pickleball court and wrote that if the county doesn’t find a better way to mitigate the noise, legal action might be taken.
“We hope that a new compromise can be reached before affected parties turn to law courts for resolution of the issue, as has happened repeatedly in other cities throughout the country,” the newsletter reads.
Pickleball has exploded in popularity over the last several years in Arlington. It has prompted players to ask the county for more courts — which the county is now expected to deliver after a bond referendum including $2 million for pickleball has passed.
The impact of the sport’s rise has not sat well with everyone, though. The crowds and noise — particularly the loud pickleball pop — at certain local courts have bothered some surrounding neighbors. This includes those who live near Glebe Road Park.
“The noise from pickleball has become a major problem for residents of nearby houses — particularly those living on the section of Tazewell Street off of 38th Street,” reads the OGCA newsletter. “Some of the houses are only 135 feet from a ‘stand alone’ pickleball court; the noise from the court reverberates across the amphitheater-like terrain downhill to Tazewell Street and can be heard distinctly (and constantly) inside the houses.”
These concerns are not unique to Arlington, with the county looking to other jurisdictions to figure out how best to broker a pickleball peace. The initial pilot program, which ran from April to early September, closed down the pickleball court closest to the houses, but also added two more courts to the park by restriping a tennis court.
While the county “learned a lot” from the pilot, it didn’t paint a “full picture” about the best way forward, a county official told ARLnow.
“Over the last several months tennis and pickleball players, despite some inherent conflicts, have adjusted to sharing the two multi-use courts at Glebe Park. The courts have been very busy,” DPR spokesperson Martha Holland said. “Throughout the duration of this pilot, we have heard from park users and neighbors alike about the need to reopen the stand-alone court and to allow for pickleball plus other recreational options (soccer, fitness workouts, etc.).”
So, in response, the county is instituting a “Phase 2” pilot program that will keep the striping on the park’s tennis courts and install a “noise reducing fence” on three sides of the standalone court.
“The side of the court that touches the basketball court will not be wrapped, for safety reasons. Once the fence is up, DPR will reopen the court and monitor its use,” said Holland.
In addition, the court will be available via a reservation system and the court lights will be turned off at 10 p.m.
If conquering Arlington wasn’t enough, pickleball is now headed to Iceland thanks to two locals.
This past weekend, Arlington-based pickleball coaches Ruth Ellis and Helen White hosted a group of Icelandic tennis players at the Walter Reed Community Center to kick start a collaboration between Arlington’s pickleball community and Tennishöllin, a tennis club in Kopavógur, Iceland.
In a return volley, Ellis and White are set to head to Kopavógur next month to lead several pickleball workshops for the general public there.
The hope is to start a pickleball craze in Iceland, much like what’s happened here in Arlington.
“So many people I’m meeting have been to Iceland. So, there’s a lot of sport tourism possibilities for a place like Iceland,” Helen White, a leader in Arlington’s pickleball community and a local ambassador for the sport, told ARLnow. “Yes, you want to see the country, but if you’re a pickleball player, you also want to play with local pickleball players.”
The idea for the collaboration with the tennis club in Kopavógur came from Ellis, who was born in Iceland and goes back often to visit family. She’s an avid pickleball player and, while thinking about her next trip home, realized that it could be tough for her to find a game.
“I was trying to see if I could play pickleball while I was there, and there’s nobody playing there,” said Ellis, who actually lives in D.C. but plays mostly in Arlington. “There’s no active pickleball scene in Iceland at the moment. To me, that looked like a situation that needed to be remedied.”
While it was popular prior to the pandemic, pickleball has boomed in Arlington in recent years. Courts across the county are often full, with residents asking for more. The Department of Parks and Recreation has dedicated $2 million to build more courts and restripe tennis courts, though it might take some time before those are ready for a match.
However, not everyone loves the game. The sound of the ball hitting the paddle — the infamous pickleball pop — can be loud, so much so that the county shut down a court this summer because the pop sound was annoying the neighbors.
While the game has continued to grow in Arlington and the United States as a whole — with sports stars buying newly-formed professional teams — in Iceland tennis remains the favored paddle sport. But Ellis wants to change that.
She reached out to White, who was game for the project. Then, after emailing “dozens” of Icelanders, Ellis was put in touch with a woman who worked at the U.S. Embassy in Iceland. In turn, that person paired Ellis with the owners of Tennishöllin.
More pickleball courts are likely coming to Arlington as local players urge the county to provide more support.
Last week, County Board member Libby Garvey and Nakish Jordan from Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation paid a visit to the outdoor pickleball courts at Walter Reed Park, near the community center. They were there to talk about what the county was doing to create more courts for a sport that continues to grow in popularity.
That includes striping more courts and potentially building dedicated outdoor pickleball courts at Walter Reed Park.
Today (July 18), the County Board is set to vote on a new Capital Improvement Plan that includes $2 million for more pickleball courts. If the plan is approved, several tennis courts at Walter Reed Park would be converted into dedicated pickleball courts, Jordan told players.
“This is central county. Lots of people come out. There’s plenty of parking [here],” Jordan said about why this was a good spot for more courts. “And there are bathrooms here.”
Even if the plan gets approved today by the County Board, though, it could take a couple of years before new courts are built.
Voters would need to pass a bond referendum in November and, then, community engagement would happen early next year, DPR spokesperson Susan Kalish told ARLnow in an email. After that, design and permitting could happen mid to late next year. Finally, construction could begin in late 2023 and be completed sometime in the summer of 2024.
The timeframe for restriping a number of existing tennis and basketball courts for multi-use so that pickleball could be played on them as well is a bit quicker. Kalish noted that could be done by next spring, provided the CIP and bond referendum both get passed.
In total, the CIP dedicates $2 million to pickleball projects, including the Walter Reed Park courts and the restriping project.
Despite these assurances about the future, a number of players expressed their annoyance to the county officials about a lack of courts amid burgeoning demand. The courts are often filled to capacity, several people said, leaving players with long waits for their turn to put paddle to ball.
“We need more pickleball lines on under-used tennis courts,” said a resident. “While [the Walter Reed Park courts] are being renovated, we will need other places to play.”
Garvey noted that there isn’t only so much court space in the county. Despite pickleball’s growth, players need to share the space with other sports, she said.
“We need to keep in mind everyone who needs things… as a County Board member, I need to think about everybody,” Garvey said. “Even the people who aren’t here and we don’t hear from — [we need to] make sure we are serving them as well. We are going have to find a way to co-exist.”
There are currently 11 indoor and 20 outdoor multi-use courts where pickleball can be played in the county.
However, one popular court at Glebe Road Park has been shut down over the summer due to the sound the ball makes when it hits the paddle drawing complaints from neighbors.
Memorial Day Closures — County offices and facilities like libraries and community centers will be closed Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Metered parking will not be enforced. But trash collection will continue as normal. [Arlington County, Twitter]
Tree Group Opposes ‘Missing Middle’ — “A tree-advocacy group believes proposed changes to Arlington housing policy could have a cataclysmic impact on existing tree canopy in the community. ‘Tell the county ‘no’ – do not enact policies that further reduce our tree canopy,’ the Arlington Tree Action Group (ATAG) said May 20 in response to a county-government proposal on possible zoning changes.” [Sun Gazette]
Chamber Supports New Ballston Metro Entrance — “I am writing to express our strong support for full Authority funding of Arlington County’s $80 million application for the Ballston-MU Metrorail Station West Entrance. This project is a critical improvement to the regional transit network and supports the Authority’s programming goals of modal and geographic balance… As we move forward, its construction will be very important to the success of businesses in Arlington.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
W-L’s Royal Rowing History — “In the spring of 1958, under the guidance of head coach Charlie Butt, a group of teenage rowers from Washington-Lee High School (now Washington-Liberty) performed so well at stateside races that they earned a spot at the Henley Royal Regatta in England–becoming the first public high school in America invited to the iconic race, which dates to 1839. But first, they needed money.” [Arlington Magazine]
County Now Offering Boosters for Kids — “After federal approvals, Arlington County and other providers are offering the COVID-19 vaccine booster to children aged 5 to 11.” [Patch]
County Polling About Pickleball — “As Arlington’s population continues to grow and sports trends change, the Department of Parks and Recreation recognizes there has been a shift in the use and demand for outdoor athletic courts. Our Outdoor Athletic Court Project includes creating criteria to identify existing courts that are candidates for permanent pickleball lines as well as identify an existing amenity to convert into a permanent pickleball facility.” [Arlington County]
Storms Possible Tomorrow — From the National Weather Service: “We’ll stay mostly dry and cloudy for the remainder of today with highs in the 60s across the area. We are monitoring the potential for an unsettled start to the long holiday weekend this Friday with severe storm/flood threats.” [Twitter]
It’s Thursday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 71 and low of 60. Sunrise at 5:49 am and sunset at 8:25 pm. [Weather.gov]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
From a new Columbia Pike library to a dedicated pickleball court, County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed 10-year $3.9 billion capital improvement plan would fund projects across Arlington.
The first 10-year plan for capital projects in four years would budget for infrastructure projects between 2023 and 2032. The CIP proposal, slated for adoption in July, is a 40% increase from the plan approved four years ago, Schwartz said in his presentation to the County Board Tuesday.
“This CIP proposal aims to address current and future capital needs in Arlington County as we emerge from the financial setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Schwartz said in a statement. “We want to focus on key planned investments in addition to following through on commitments from prior plans to benefit county residents and businesses long-term.”
Stormwater projects would receive $331.3 million in funding, including $77 million for Spout Run, $14.7 million for Torreyson Run, $28.5 million for Crossman Run and $49.5 million for Lubber Run — all flood mitigation efforts. Streams and water quality funding is proposed at $52.1 million and maintenance at $50.2 million.
While Metro remains one of the largest investments in the CIP, at $356.4 million, the proposal also outlines $1.8 billion in non-Metro transportation funding. This includes $16 million for Vision Zero street safety improvements program, $64 million for bridge replacements and renovations, and $89 million for bike and walk programs.
Other highlights include:
- Columbia Pike library replacement ($31.6 million)
- Planning for future investment at the Quincy Street site ($16.4 million)
- Army Navy Country Club Trail ($4.9 million)
- Maintenance and expansion of Capital Bikeshare program ($16.8 million)
- Continued funding for Columbia Pike transportation improvements, supporting the remaining reconstruction and the Transit Station program ($117 million)
- Bridge replacements and renovations, including replacing the W. Glebe Road and Mt. Vernon (Arlington Ridge Road) bridges and design and construction of Shirlington Road Bridge ($64 million)
- Construction of new entrances to the Ballston ($147.5 million) and Crystal City ($91.4 million) Metro stations and investment in the transitway extension to Pentagon City and Potomac Avenue ($33 million)
The proposed CIP includes new park programs that focus on emerging needs and natural resiliency, a new fire station on the west end of Columbia Pike, and facilities consolidation to enable remote work for county staff.
Schwartz said the needs of the county have changed since the last 10-year CIP, as the county is in “a world shaped by the pandemic where we do our business differently.”
Michelle Cowan, deputy county manager overseeing the Department of Management and Finance, noted during the presentation that the finance department works entirely remotely now, potentially a harbinger of a money-saving reduction in the county’s office footprint.
“We have reduced our footprint which… allows us then to do some really strategic consolidations that you’ll hear about in other county buildings that could get us out of some aging assets,” Cowan said.
The CIP will continue to fund debt service obligations for the investment in housing at Barcroft Apartments, construction of Fire Station 8, which is scheduled to be completed in fall 2023, and the design and planning process for the proposed Arlington boathouse.
Preliminary construction funding for the lower boathouse site is included in the later years of the CIP.
This CIP returns funding levels for the Arlington Neighborhoods Program, formerly the Neighborhood Conservation Program, which are projects identified by individual neighborhoods and include street improvements, streetlights, parks, beautification and sidewalks. The program had steep cuts in previous CIPs.
The 2023-32 CIP proposal would provide $85.2 million in funding to the program. That includes $4 million of funding for projects in fiscal years 2023 and 2024, and would increase to $9 million in 2030 and 2031, Director of Management and Finance Maria Meredith said.
(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) The loud pop sound produced by a pickleball hitting a paddle has led to the closing of a popular court at Glebe Road Park.
A new pilot program that began last month at the North Arlington park is temporarily closing a stand-alone outdoor pickleball court through the majority of the spring and summer.
As a replacement, the tennis court next to it is now striped to create two additional pickleball courts. With the change, there are now two lighted multi-purpose tennis/pickleball courts and one lighted tennis court at Glebe Road Park. The park’s hours also have been adjusted, with the lights now shutting off at 10 p.m. instead of 11 p.m.
The reason for these changes is that the pop of pickleball — an increasingly popular sport — is bothersome some nearby neighbors in the Old Glebe community.
“One of the issues with pickleball is complaints of the popping noise the paddle makes when it hits the ball,” Martha Holland, a spokesperson for the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation, tells ARLnow. “These concerns are not unique to Arlington but are prevalent in many communities nationwide. Many jurisdictions are grappling with finding the balance [given] the growth in pickleball.”
“These concerns were present before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Holland added. “However, the increase in play on the dedicated pickleball court at Glebe Road Park during COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation.”
The pilot program is set to run until September 6 and, at that point, the county will determine next steps.
“We will be checking in with the community (neighbors and court users) a couple times during the pilot to get feedback,” Holland wrote. “We hope to mitigate the sound issues by moving pickleball to the tennis courts.”
It’s no secret that pickleball’s popularity has surged over the last two years, due in part to it being a relatively low-impact social sport that allows players to stay within a relatively safe distance from one another.
This has, in turn led Arlington County to increase the number of courts available for pickleball.
But it also has caused some challenges. For one, there’s a limited number of available court space in the county. Back in November, county officials expressed some frustration that pickleball players were going rogue and unilaterally marking off pickleball boundaries on existing tennis and basketball courts.
At Glebe Road Park, the re-striping of a tennis court for pickleball hasn’t sat well with everyone vying for a share of that prime concrete real estate.
Helen White, part of the Arlington Pickleball Club‘s leadership team, says she’s heard from members that they’ve been “bullied” by tennis players when using the courts.
There is a county-run reservation system, allowing residents to book one of the tennis courts in 60 or 90 minute increments at $10 an hour. However, with many spots open, it’s unclear how much the system is actually utilized.
Then, there’s the noise of ball meeting paddle.
It was a single household that first brought a noise concerns to the county’s attention in August 2020, Arlington’s Director of Constituent Services Ben Aiken confirms to ARLnow. As time went on, though, more households complained to the county about the popping noise, Aiken says.
There was even talk of a petition, supposedly signed by about 20 households all living near the park on N. Old Glebe Road, though Aiken tells ARLnow that he has yet to receive a formal petition and is not aware of one circulating in the community.
ARLnow attempted to reach out to the homeowner who initially complained to the county, but they declined to speak for this story.
Arlington’s parks department is identifying tennis and basketball courts that could also accommodate the increasingly popular sport of pickleball.
The department is surveying residents to gauge court usage and the need for pickleball courts, and see where they think pickleball lines can be added. The Department of Parks and Recreation currently maintains 18 multi-use courts that allow pickleball and 1 single-use pickleball court.
But that’s not enough to meet the demand.
“Arlington has seen a significant growth in pickleball with increase in requests for single-use and multi-use courts,” DPR Associate Planner and Project Manager Bethany Heim said in a presentation. “While Arlington has 19 outdoor pickleball courts, players are using tape or chalk to create more pickleball courts on existing tennis and basketball courts.”
More and more Arlingtonians have picked up pickleball, especially during the pandemic. The YMCA Arlington Tennis & Squash Center in Virginia Square repainted three tennis courts to make room for six pickleball courts earlier this year, and one local player says membership in the local Facebook group Pickleball Friends of Arlington, Virginia has surged.
Noted local ultramarathoner Michael Wardian has also taken up the sport, and the parks department now offers pickleball classes for all ages and abilities.
Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong and is played on a court that is smaller than a tennis court, using a modified tennis net, Heim said. It sometimes brings upwards of 40-50 players to a court at one time.
DPR has relied on adding pickleball lines to existing courts, and that’s still the plan in the short term. Arlington has 87 full tennis courts and five half-courts, as well as 76 full basketball courts and 12 half-courts — some allow pickleball, volleyball and futsal, a soccer-like game played on a hard court.
“A growing trend in parks is to have a multi-use facilities so that a wider variety of activities can be enjoyed at one place,” Heim said. “The [Public Spaces Master Plan] references… using multi-use courts to accommodate the growing interest in pickleball.”
The department striped its first tennis court to allow pickleball in 2015, and in 2017 it piloted a basketball-pickleball court at Walter Reed Community Center. Today, there are multi-use courts at Glebe Road Park, Gunston Park, Fort Scott Park, Lubber Run Park and Walter Reed.
Eventually, the Public Spaces Master Plan recommends establishing a dedicated pickleball facility to meet the demand.
“While multi-use courts are effective, Arlington does not have a dedicated pickleball facility with more than one court,” Heim said.
The survey is open through Friday, Nov. 19. DPR plans to use the information to determine how to make sure the changes are done equitably and to identify potential conflicts with making single-use courts multi use.
After the survey closes, DPR will develop draft criteria for converting single-use courts to multi-use courts and identify eligible sites. There will be another public engagement opportunity in January. Finalized criteria and a list of identified sites will later be published online.
“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.”