The long-delayed Dudley’s Sport & Ale in Shirlington is finally on the road to completion after its owner said the county approved the necessary permits.
Owner Reese Gardner said that with the approval, he will have more of an idea of an opening date for the sports bar at 2766 S. Arlington Mill Drive after a construction meeting next week.
The sports bar was dogged by permitting problems that delayed its construction and prevented its opening, which had been planned for last year.
Approval could mean that Gardner, who also owns Copperwood Tavern, Quinn’s on the Corner in Rosslyn and Irish Whiskey in the District, may have a chance of hitting his revised target of having Dudley’s open this summer.
A 28-seat bar, a 125-seat dining area, and a “stadium style” viewing area are planned, as well as a rooftop bar — Shirlington’s first — with a game area, a 15-seat bar, and patio seating for about 114 people.
Newly-signed Seattle Seahawks running back Eddie Lacy spent part of his weekend in Clarendon.
Lacy, who was earned NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Honors in 2013 while on the Green Bay Packers, was photographed hanging out with Arlington County police officers who were patrolling the bar district. The department posted some of the photos on Twitter Monday, including one with Lacy sitting on a police motorcycle and another in which he is smiling while holding a pair of handcuffs.
Lacy also was spotted at Don Tito, where he posed with co-owner Nick Cordero.
Other professional athletes have been spotted at Don Tito over the past couple of years, including former Washington Capitals player Brooks Laich (with fiancée Julianne Hough) and United States women’s national soccer team defender Ali Krieger.
@Hilarysn He's decided to stay with his career in the NFL but we were happy to show him some of our equipment over the weekend in Clarendon.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) May 23, 2017
The long-awaited and long-delayed Dudley’s Sport & Ale in Shirlington appears to still be far from ready to open.
Owner Reese Gardner had hoped the sports bar would be open in either June or July, but in a brief email he said the planned sports bar at 2766 S. Arlington Mill Drive is still plagued by the same permitting problems “as before, unfortunately.”
Gardner said the county has still not approved all of its necessary permits. A 28-seat bar, a 125-seat dining area, and a “stadium style” viewing area are planned, as well as a rooftop bar — Shirlington’s first — with a game area, a 15-seat bar, and patio seating for about 114 people.
A spokeswoman for the county’s department of community, planning, housing and development confirmed the project has been going through the administrative change process. The spokeswoman referred further questions to the county’s lead planner on the project, who did not respond to requests for more information.
Gardner, who also owns the nearby Copperwood Tavern, Quinn’s on the Corner in Rosslyn and Irish Whiskey in the District, said he would have further information on an opening date once permits are approved.
By the time she was 9 years old, Isabel Graham had earned a black belt in mixed martial arts and, with a younger brother around, has always enjoyed being in charge.
So it seemed like a natural fit when she began umpiring in Arlington Little League earlier this season.
Out of an officiating roster of dozens of teenagers and a handful of adults, Graham is currently the only female ump in the league. (An older female umpire is out with an injury.)
But the 14-year-old Graham, an eighth-grader at St. Thomas More Cathedral School, said that her gender has never been an issue for anyone as she takes charge of games at the AAA and Majors levels for children up to the age of 12.
“At this age the players don’t actually know that it’s different, so they treat me like anyone else,” she said before a recent game at Fort Scott Park. “The only people who know it’s different are the parents, so the moms always give me a smile.”
Graham combines her umpiring with playing travel softball for Arlington Sage, and also plays basketball during the winter. She was introduced to umpiring by her friend and St. Thomas More classmate Nicolas Lopez-Riveira, now in his third season overseeing Little League games.
And she seems to have taken to the umpiring quickly. She said it is very similar to playing catcher on her softball team, as she is in charge and sees a lot of action behind home plate.
“It’s exciting, but I guess I’ve seen her in so many things where if she’s not in charge, she’s at least constantly aware of what’s going on,” said her father Michael Graham. “I’m not surprised that she enjoys it, mostly because of the interest in softball and baseball. I’m glad that she’s doing it.”
To become an umpire, Isabel Graham went through training on the rules of the game and how to handle situations on the field. League umpire-in-chief Steve Sundbeck said he has approximately 65 teenagers and seven adults, including himself, that umpire. The league has approximately 1,500 children as young as 4 that play baseball.
Sundbeck said he looks to use the training program to teach new umpires good sportsmanship and confidence, something that is helped by a league culture in Arlington that emphasizes earning respect and doing your best, regardless of age.
“It really is a matter of doing the best job you can in the first place, because they’ll know when you’re getting lazy and not getting in position,” Sundbeck said. “And you just know what to ignore and what to call out that you’re not putting up with. We try to teach them the rubric.”
And while Isabel Graham said she gets nervous before games start, once the batter settles into the box, it feels natural.
“They’re really just trying to have fun, and they often don’t understand what’s happening, they just want to get out there and play,” she said. “I don’t think there’s that much pressure. Mostly I’m just pressuring myself. I’ll always think I’ll make mistakes, but I’ll have to get over it.”
Isabel Graham will start at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria in the fall and said she hopes to continue umpiring and maybe move up to the 50/70 level, the highest in Arlington Little League.
“She’s always been a fairly focused, confident kid and loves all things baseball as well as being in charge,” said Michael Graham. “So being an umpire seems to be a really good fit for her personality and interest in sports. Whether she’s the only girl or the first girl to do anything has never really been of concern to her.”
The diamond athletic field at Gunston Park will be converted from natural grass to synthetic turf after the Arlington County Board approved a $370,000 plan Tuesday night.
The nonprofit Arlington Sports Foundation offered a grant of $180,000 to convert the field, and the county sports commission’s Diamond Field Fund will pay the additional $190,000. The project is on top of a previously-approved $1.4 million maintenance and improvement plan at the park.
It is estimated the new field will add nearly 880 new possible playing hours per year, at a time when there is high demand for athletic fields in the county.
“Both the number of people playing sports in Arlington, and the hours our fields are in use continue to grow. We need creative solutions to meet the demand,” said County Board chair Jay Fisette. “Kudos to the Arlington Sports Foundation and the sports community for helping fund the conversion of Gunston’s field and expand its community use without increasing taxpayer support.”
Before the board’s unanimous approval of the project, there had been questions raised about the safety of the synthetic turf, which will be made from EPDM rubber. Local resident Kelly Alexis asked that a natural ingredient like coconut husks be used instead, and cited previous concerns about the health risks of playing on turf, especially that made up of crumb rubber.
Board vice chair Katie Cristol and others said the health of children is something Arlington takes “incredibly seriously,” and asserted that the health risks of EPDM are minimal.
Several members of the county’s sports community testified in favor of the conversion. Arlington Little League president Adam Balutis said the new turf means more games can be played and not be canceled or postponed due to the weather.
“Everybody would love to have natural, beautiful green fields that we could upkeep all year round and play and play and play, but it’s not possible in Arlington County because we don’t have enough space,” said Daniel Lopez, vice president of the board of the Arlington Soccer Association. “So the next best thing is we try to turf these fields so everybody can use them and everybody can enjoy them.”
Board members said that the funding model for the new turf field is something that could be repeated elsewhere, especially if community members are willing to help fundraise.
“We know in today’s tight funding times that the government is not going to be able to do it all and will rely increasingly on the generosity of the folks in our community,” said John Vihstadt.
“I think we’ve maybe got a new model,” said Board member Libby Garvey.
Arlington Sports Hall of Fame Seeks Permanent Venue — There is an Arlington Sports Hall of Fame, but it does not have a permanent home. Boosters are seeking to change that, discussing a possible display in Arlington Central Library. [InsideNova]
Local Man Graduates Parris Island With Honors — Arlington native Allen M. Gibbs has graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island with honors. [Beaufort Gazette]
Police, Fire Departments Hold Book Drive — Starting Wednesday and running through April 30, Arlington police and firefighters will be holding a “For the Love of Reading” book drive, collecting specific books for elementary school students at Arlington Public Schools. Donation boxes are located at police headquarters in Courthouse and at local fire stations. [Arlington County]
Avalon Bay Donates to APAH — Arlington-based apartment, publicly traded building owner AvalonBay has made a $35,000 donation to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing. The company has raised $85,000 for APAH since 2015. [Yahoo Finance]
Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak
(Updated at 5:05 p.m.) Dudley’s Sport & Ale, a long-awaited sports bar coming to the former Bungalow space in Shirlington, might finally open its doors this June or July.
“We’re 70 percent done inside,” he explained. “It’s taking a long time, but it’s a big project.”
The long wait appears to have disheartened some eager would-be patrons. Several people have taken to Facebook to complain about the delay over the past few months.
“I have been checking for news on the opening since last spring,” wrote one person, who gave the yet-to-open restaurant a one-star review. “They should at least give updates.”
“This is the restaurant that will never open,” said another Facebook user.
When it finally opens, Dudley’s will offer a 28-seat bar, another 125 seats in the dining area, a private room and bar for events and a “stadium style” viewing area with drink-holder-equipped seat that face a giant screen. Hot dog, popcorn and beer vendors will roam the stadium seating area to dispense cheap eats and drinks, Gardner said.
Dudley’s will also have a rooftop bar with a game area, a 15-seat bar and patio seating for about 114 people.
The tavern’s menu will consist of “traditional American bar cuisine,” Gardner said. The restaurant will also serve a “blue collar breakfast” menu all day and sling 16-inch cast iron pizzas.
“It’s a cross between a deep dish and a traditional pizza,” Gardner explained. “When you make it in these cast irons, the crust gets very flavorful.”
If the remaining construction work goes off without a hitch, Dudley’s could open on the Fourth of July, hopefully at the latest, according to Gardner.
We now know a bit more about The G.O.A.T., the new sports bar and lounge that’s coming to the former Hard Times Cafe space in Clarendon.
The bar is expected to open in June. The 8,800 square foot space is being completely remodeled and will seat “350 guests between three full bars and full service tables.”
The group behind A-Town Bar and Grill, Don Tito and other popular Arlington hangouts has signed a 20-year lease for the space, at 3028 Wilson Blvd.
A new press release, below, says The G.O.A.T. will “transition from a traditional sports bar to a chic and relaxed evening lounge” and will feature “daily deals, late night menus and live entertainment” among its rotating specials.
Mike Cordero is bringing the “greatest of all time” in food and drinks to Clarendon this summer. Set to open in June 2017, The G.O.A.T. will take over 3028 Wilson Boulevard, which formerly housed the Hard Times Café, and transform the current floor and kitchen layout to maximize the seating in the 8,800-square-foot restaurant space. Cordero’s MacNac Hospitality signed a 20-year lease agreement with property owner VA Properties LLC. will work on the build out and remodeling of the kitchen, ground level and second floor, and Yvette Irene Design will develop the interior décor.
The G.O.A.T. will serve gourmet American comfort food and beverages. All the menu’s recipes will feature locally sourced ingredients and homemade marinades and sauces. There will be an emphasis on craft cocktails and beers supplied from area microbreweries.
“Our mission is to offer simple yet delicious food, a variety of drinks and a relaxing environment to lounge in,” said Mike Cordero, Executive Chef and President of MacNac Hospitality. “The G.O.A.T. will be an inviting sports bar that can be enjoyed beyond game day.”
Designed with extended hours for lounging in mind, The G.O.A.T. will transition from a traditional sports bar to a chic and relaxed evening lounge. Daily deals, late night menus and live entertainment will be a regular part of The G.O.A.T.’s rotating specials.
The redesigned restaurant will seat 350 guests between three full bars and full service tables. The 200-person dining room will have a mix of high tops and long banquette style tables. The bar stools and high top table chairs will feature plush cushions and foot rests to make seating for extended periods most comfortable. To ensure all seats are “the best seat in the house,” The G.O.A.T. will feature three large viewing walls. Each wall will be entirely comprised of individual TV monitors that together display one single televised event to maximize the overall viewing potential from each table. Separate from the main floor, The G.O.A.T. will house a private function room equipped with its own bar, several TV monitors, and seating for 25.
A new sports bar is coming to the former Hard Times Cafe space across from the Clarendon Metro station.
The G.O.A.T Sports Bar, at 3028 Wilson Blvd, is described as “Northern Virginia’s premier sports and game lounge.” It’s expected to open at some point in early summer 2017.
The bar comes from the prolific team behind A-Town Bar and Grill in Ballston, Don Tito in Clarendon and Barley Mac in Rosslyn. It will serve American comfort food, said Scott Parker, one of the partners, but few additional details were available beyond the sports focus.
“The G.O.A.T. is a popular sports acronym for ‘Greatest of All Time,'” Parker said. “Much of the concept is still being developed, but we’re going to be doing a complete redesign of the space.”
Parker added that a second new bar/restaurant from the team may be opening in Clarendon around the same time as The G.O.A.T. The details behind that new concept are also under wraps.
“That deal is very close to being done and we are pretty confident both concepts will be open in that time frame,” he said.
The Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Workgroup, the citizen body charged with weighing in on the thorny issue of whether an athletic field near Williamsburg Middle School should have lights, is set to have its 21st meeting tonight (Wednesday).
The workgroup is preparing to write its draft report, which will be presented to county commissions next month and reviewed with the Arlington County Board in January before a final set of recommendations is presented to the Board in February.
Earlier this month the workgroup held an open house at which those on both sides — for and against lighting the artificial turf field — presented their case. ARLnow.com spoke to a number of people at the meeting.
“I’m for the fields,” said Chris Smith, a nearby resident. “I think it’s fantastic that we have the resources that we do in Arlington, and the utility of the turf fields is only expanded by having them lit at different times during the day. It gives us more time on the fields, particularly give the children more time on the fields, as the days get shorter, through the winter and I think that’s only a good thing.”
“I’m probably one of the four or five houses that are closest… whatever the effects could be I would probably feel them as much as anybody else,” Smith added. “But as a member of the local youth sports community and as a father of three children, two of whom are at Discovery [Elementary], I think it’s a better investment with the lights there.”
A number of supporters said their kids play soccer and having a lighted field closer to home — currently they must travel to Gunston Middle School or Long Bridge Part to play at night — would benefit far more residents than the lights would, potentially, negatively affect.
Opponents, however, said in their presentation that the area around the field is a “historically dark and quiet neighborhood” and lighting the field would be a slippery slope leading, perhaps, to turning “all of Arlington County into a big city with big-city traffic, noise and lights.”
“I live close to the field, my kids went to this school and we already lived through building Discovery school, the elementary school, which has been fine, actually,” said a lighting opponent who did not give her name. “But this will have games going at night, I don’t know how many nights a week, late at night. They already have games it seems, a lot, all day, all weekend. It seems like it’s just too much for the neighborhood and the lights will disturb everybody’s sleep and rest and just the peace and quiet of the neighborhood.”
“I just don’t think you have to play soccer 24/7,” the lighting opponent continued. “You know, enough is enough.”
County Board member Christian Dorsey attended the open house and said the lengthy community process — which started in September 2013 — is intended to give all residents plenty of opportunity to shape the county’s ultimate decision.
“We put together a workgroup because this is not an easy issue to decide or deliberate about,” Dorsey said. “The Board wanted to make sure we gave individuals from communities, affected communities who are also part of interest groups to really go deep into the issues so that they could give us all the perspectives that we needed to make a decision. So, this is kind of a — not the culmination — but it’s nearing the end of their work and this is really a useful way to take what they’ve learned and share it with the wider public.”
“We need to make an informed decision,” Dorsey concluded, “which is what I look forward to.”
The Arlington County Board on Wednesday approved a compromise plan for a baseball field renovation at Bluemont Park.
The $720,000 plan to renovate Athletic Field No. 3 at the park, which would have converted a run-down baseball diamond to a fenced-in field with new dugouts, bleachers and other furnishings, was met with opposition from some local residents.
To balance the desires of the opponents, who mostly objected to the fence, and the supporters, who say that the county needs more fields for youth sports, the new plan removed about 20 percent of the fencing from around the field.
“When games aren’t in play, you’ll be able to walk through the area,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. “There’s still space for Frisbee, picnicking and walking your dog. But when a game is in play, you’ll get a good baseball experience.. and a safe one.”
Schwartz also noted in a press release that the controversy — opponents insisted that they were blindsided by the plan even though a public meeting about it had been held and it was approved by the County Board months before opponents organized — pointed to a need to reconsider Arlington’s public outreach on such projects.
Schwartz acknowledged that the County’s engagement process in planning for the renovations, which included a community meeting and digital communications, was not successful. The concerns of those opposed to the fence became known to staff and elected officials only after the County Board approved the construction contract in July 2016.
“We are working to improve the County’s processes for engaging the community across County government,” Schwartz said. “I’ve asked our new Assistant County Manager for Communications and Public Engagement, Bryna Helfer, to report back to me in early 2017 with recommendations.”
Construction of the new field is currently underway.
The full press release about the County Board’s action, after the jump.
David Black Convicted, Sentenced for Wife’s Murder — An Arlington County jury this week found Arlington Ridge resident David Black guilty of murdering his wife. Bonnie Delgado Black was found stabbed to death in her home, which was just blocks from her estranged husband’s house, on April 17, 2015. Yesterday the jury recommended that Black serve two life sentences. [NBC 4, WTOP]
County Board Ditches New Year’s Day Meeting — Eschewing a long-standing tradition of holding its first meeting of the year on New Year’s Day, the Arlington County Board yesterday voted unanimously to hold its 2017 organizational meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3. “We still will start our year off with the community, but without forcing employees to give up their personal and family time on a holiday,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. [Arlington County]
Retail Space for WeWork in Crystal City — The County Board on Saturday voted to convert 440 square feet of the WeWork and WeLive building in Crystal City to ground floor retail space, at the request of WeWork. No word yet on what kind of a retailer may be moving in. [Arlington County]
More on Park Protests — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark has tackled the dual controversies of the baseball field fence in Bluemont Park (the Board acted on that yesterday, article coming soon) and the proposed Williamsburg Middle School athletic field lights. Clark concluded: “Popular sports for kids, peaceful green parks: competing Arlington virtues.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Evolent Health Stock Soars — As of 10 a.m. the share price for Ballston-based Evolent Health is up more than 12 percent today and nearly 70 percent for the year. The tech firm reported a narrower-than-expected loss and higher-than-expected revenue in the third quarter of 2016. [CNBC, Yahoo]
Board Approves Loan for Apartment Renovations — The Culpepper Garden affordable apartment complex for low-income seniors will receive needed renovations thanks to a $9.9 million loan from Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund. The County Board unanimously approved the loan yesterday. The renovations are expected to begin in the spring and will require tenants to temporarily move to other units on site while their units are renovated. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Ari P.
A group of young gymnasts has been doing a lot of jumping and dancing around. This time it’s not for one of their performances, but rather because they won a visit from Olympic gold medal gymnast Simone Biles.
Members of the Arlington Gymnastics program were granted the visit today at Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center as a reward for their efforts in selling tickets to the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions, which takes place at the Verizon Center on Thursday.
The Arlington Gymnastics program consists of about 200 girls on the Arlington Aerials team, about 40 boys on the Arlington Tigers team and more than 1,000 weekly gymnastics class participants of all ages. They are all welcome to attend the special meet-and-greet with Biles.
Twenty-five of the young gymnasts also will be a part of the show at the Verizon Center tomorrow, according to Arlington Gymnastics employee and coach Sonja Hird Clark. The children will be a part of the opening act and for a time will share the stage with Olympians, who will be performing on various pieces of equipment.
“The kids work so hard at this sport and it’s so exciting for them to have the chance to see an Olympian,” she says. “They overcome mental blocks and fears when they see a gold medalist walking through that door.”
The Arlington Gymnastics program is subsidized by Arlington County through the parks and recreation department. Hird Clark says it gives members of all socioeconomic statuses a chance to get involved in gymnastics.
“One of the things that excites me about our gym club is it’s all walks of life,” she says. “We have every type of child in our community… and that’s inspiring to me.”
Photo (top) courtesy Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation
The following is the third in a weekly series of articles about a “day in the life” of companies at the MakeOffices coworking space in Clarendon. The mini-series, which will run this fall, is sponsored by MakeOffices.
Move over Willy Wonka, the employees at SharpSeat are now the ones offering golden tickets. Whether for concerts or sporting events or theater performances, SharpSeat hooks up secondary market buyers with their dream tickets. The service essentially “is like StubHub, but cheaper,” say co-founder Andrew McCulloch.
He and the other two co-founders, Mike Williams and Brad Kurtzman, met while attending James Madison University and moved to Northern Virginia to take jobs after graduating. They attended a lot of ticketed events upon moving to the area and found themselves giving advice to friends looking to buy good tickets, too. But there was one major problem.
“There’s a ton of fees that we got sick of paying when shopping around on other sites,” McCulloch says. “We saw an opening in the secondary ticket market.” That’s when they decided they could do it better.
The three did a lot of research on secondary market ticket sales and ended up using their industry knowledge to start SharpSeat as a side project. “We found the average person didn’t know to look any further than Stubhub for secondary [tickets]. We saw an opportunity there to give them a better alternative,” Williams says.
They all eventually left their jobs to work full-time on SharpSeat. “We basically wanted to find a way to make tickets cheaper for the end customer,” McCulloch says. “We knew if we could find a way to keep costs down and still get access to the same tickets the big guys were getting, we could pass the savings on to customers.”
Their average day is a lot different now. The employees live in Virginia Square — two live together and the other lives down the street — so the MakeOffices Clarendon location where they work makes for an easy commute.
“One of the best parts is not having the commute around D.C.,” McCulloch says. He also found it important to stop working from home every day. “Keeping work and life separate was big for me because working in my kitchen all the time I’m [distracted]… Plus, here we’re surrounded by a bunch of other entrepreneurs that are getting things done.”
Being among other entrepreneurs has helped the employees stay motivated when doing their daily tasks, which include maintaining the website, coordinating with site developers, researching what events are coming up and fielding calls from the customer service team. And according to Williams, one of the big challenges they constantly face is marketing.
“For every business, [marketing] is probably 90 percent of the battle,” he says. “Just getting the word out there and getting people to visit the site, more than just your family and friends.”
Thanks to the business’ growth since launching two years ago — there is currently about $2 billion worth of tickets listed on the site, although it fluctuates seasonally — the team recently has been able to hire out for help with that marketing burden.
“Now we’ve hired a marketing firm to help us and we’re really looking to expand,” Kurtzman says. “This is our first business so we kind of learn as we go. We had to teach ourselves everything.”
They also outsource much of the customer service to a team in Chicago, but not all of it. The co-founders all use their venue expertise to give advice to customers who contact them looking for tips on purchasing the best tickets.
“So often people ask what’s the best value and where’s the best place to sit,” says McCulloch. “We know where you’re going to get a better value… Just little intricacies like that help out when we’re talking to clients.” Williams agrees, adding, “We have good knowledge of all the D.C. venues so we help people out” with getting the best ticket for their money.
To remain experts in the industry, the three often do offsite work — attending different types of events locally as well as traveling to other cities to check out their venues. “Obviously, it’s really fun to do that, but it is a part of what we have to do [for research],” Williams says.
Kurtzman explains that traveling to sites is how they gain knowledge of the best seats so they can offer direct customer support. “StubHub doesn’t really do that kind of thing,” he says.
When the SharpSeat employees aren’t traveling, they take advantage of the amenities in the MakeOffices Clarendon coworking space.
“Getting dedicated office space around here… is pretty unrealistic, especially for a small company like us,” says Williams. “Even for something half as nice as this, if you want a dedicated space the rents around here are so much that it just never really made sense to us. When this space opened up we couldn’t believe how cheap it was for what you get.”
One of the perks included in that price is a set of rotating taps of regionally-brewed beers. The SharpSeat co-founders say they like to head to the kitchen to try out new brews, relax and meet employees from the other businesses in the coworking space.
“Plus, I love the massage chairs,” Brad says, as the others laugh. “I usually use them once a day.”
Between the MakeOffices benefits and the satisfaction of doing a job they love, the SharpSeat team experiences something many typical employees don’t: They actually enjoy going to work.
“At my old job, I hated going to work. Now I love coming to this office,” Kurtzman says. Williams agrees, saying with a smile, “It’s kind of crazy that we’re voluntarily coming into an office after we wanted so badly to get out of one.”
The following is the second in a weekly series of articles about a “day in the life” of companies at the MakeOffices coworking space in Clarendon. The mini-series, which will run this fall, is sponsored by MakeOffices.
Just like former Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton made a career of enabling Karl “The Mailman” Malone to score, the workers behind LeagueApps spend every day making assists. They strive to set up every community team that uses their management service with a slam dunk experience.
The app-based service provides a management platform and web presence for youth and recreational sports teams. It organizes tasks such as online registrations, schedules, score databases and payment collection.
“It’s kind of like an all-in-one app for sports organizers to facilitate all the logistics of their registration and what they need to do during the season for communicating with their members,” says Steve Parker, LeagueApps co-founder and chief technology officer.
The service has about 50 employees in two offices: one in Arlington and one in New York. Although the New York contingent works out of a standalone office, Parker says the Arlington employees benefit from being in the MakeOffices Clarendon coworking space.
“One of the things that I like, and I think everyone likes, is being around these other companies. The energy of this place is great,” he says. “As a company, we see the value in having a nice working environment for people. [It’s] an intangible benefit that will pay dividends because they’ll feel more motivated and productive.”
Each day starts with the team having a stand-up meeting to go over what each person is working on, then the team disperses for their tasks. Although a lot of research, planning and strategy occurs in the Arlington office, much of what happens daily at this location is writing and testing code. Some businesses consider that an insular activity that can be performed remotely, but Parker believes staff members benefit from collaborating at the office.
“We can have in-person, live interactions, which are so valuable,” he says. “There’s a lot of questions that come up, issues that we encounter. Being able to talk through things and go to a whiteboard and discuss it live instead of just typing it… is a lot easier and more efficient.”
Having the two offices in different cities also creates a natural separation between the different tasks performed at each. Arlington houses the team behind the software platform and is considered the LeagueApps technology and product hub, whereas the New York office has a greater focus on business aspects such as sales, management, marketing, finance and customer success. “It’s a nice, clean delineation between what we do and they do,” Parker says.
The environment doesn’t just have a positive effect on employees. The conference rooms come in handy on the days when employees bring in clients for meetings. “The conference rooms and breakout rooms are key. We use those all the time,” says Parker, noting that clients are impressed when they visit the space.
So far, the business model appears to work. Parker says LeagueApps has nearly doubled in growth each year since its launch in 2011. “Just like any startup we’ve worked out a lot of kinks and have gotten to a point where we have a good model and we have a strong product-market fit. We’re continuing to refine that,” he says.
On occasion, the refining happens while interacting with employees at the other businesses in the coworking space. “Sometimes there’s technologies that we’re using that we can have conversations about and gain some quick insights,” says Parker.
One business improvement that has helped LeagueApps is choosing a handful of sports to focus on — such as lacrosse, soccer and baseball — and catering the platform to each, rather than having one generic platform that could be used for all sports. Customers get more value with the sport-specific focus because “different sports have slightly different ways of doing things,” Parker explains. “So we’ve built our platform to be customizable to all the different things that sport organizers do… our account executives and our support services are all tailored by sport.”
Although the team buckles down and works hard at the office, there’s plenty of room for being social. Such as when amidst the quiet typing and clicking, one employee nonchalantly teases another and everyone laughs. That spirit spills over from the work day into evening happy hours, sometimes on-site (MakeOffices provides a selection of locally-brewed beers on tap from four kegerators in the kitchen) and sometimes at nearby Clarendon watering holes.
“The space and location are good for team building activities,” Parker said.