Join Club
Athletic field in Quincy Park is used for soccer practice (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County is looking to tweak how its athletic fields are used and reserved.

Through Sept. 8, residents will have the chance to participate in a survey which county staff plan to use to develop policy that will “ensure more equitable access for recreation.”

The study is part of the Public Spaces Master Plan which calls for the county to solicit feedback from residents every five years on how frequently and at what times of day people use the fields.

The county started gathering feedback in 2021 and surveyed 107 people which was used to create an “Athletic Field Draft Availability Framework.”

In the initial survey, residents highlighted that there was not enough time and space dedicated to unscheduled casual “drop-in” or “community use” of athletic fields for community activities and requested better access to lighted fields — currently 36 out of 96 fields have lights — on weeknights and weekends.

The issue of access to athletic fields for unplanned athletic and non-athletic activities has become increasingly contentious in recent years.

Before it was adopted in 2019, the Public Spaces Master Plan came under fire from opponents who argued the county had set aside more space for athletic fields than it needed, reducing the amount of available land for other facilities, such as parks and schools.

In 2021, the Aurora Highlands Civic Association wrote numerous letters to the Arlington County Board and circulated a petition pushing for “open access” to nearby diamond athletic fields during hours when there are no scheduled games “to relax, throw frisbees, sunbathe, or even write petitions.”

However, proponents claim demand for scheduled use of sports fields is growing and believe the county should invest to help solve this problem.

To resolve these issues, Jennifer Fioretti, deputy director of Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said county staff have proposed two solutions via the Athletic Field Availability Draft Framework.

First, staff have developed a formula that calculates the “utilization rate” for each field in the county. Fioretti said she believes this strategy will help the department better understand individual field use, thereby improving “operational efficiency.”

“We will use the data, for example, to inform the re-balancing of scheduled activities and to create opportunities for community use that may have not been available in the past,” she told ARLnow in an email.

Second, county staff propose reclassifying the six fields currently labeled as “Drop-In/Community Use” to a “Permit Takes Priority” status.

Fioretti said the six drop-in fields, which include Gunston 3, Barcroft 5, VA Highlands 2, Westover, TJ Lower Field and Rocky Run, can still be reserved, which causes confusion because “Community Use/Drop-In” implies there are no activities scheduled.

The idea, she noted, is to “further simplify our field designations” in order to “spread scheduled community time throughout the County.”

“By eliminating the Drop-In/Community Use designation we will be identifying community time and scheduled sport specific times at more locations throughout the entire county,” Fioretti said.

Of Arlington’s 96 athletic fields, 12 are currently “Permit-Only,” 78 are “Permit Takes Priority,” and 6 are “Drop-In/Community Use fields.”

By participating in the second survey, residents will have the opportunity to provide feedback about the proposal which Fioretti said will help county staff determine whether it is “on the right track” or whether its proposal needs to be modified.


As Derek Cushman rowed for the ninth hour of the day, he responded to ARLnow’s questions between heavy breaths from exhaustion via a Twitch chat box.

The recent Wakefield High School graduate has been rowing on a machine in his living room for six days now, in an attempt to beat the current men’s world record for 1 million meters rowed by someone under 19 years old. The record for the age category, set in 2020, stands at 10 days, 13 hours and four minutes.

Cushman has been rowing from roughly 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. since last Friday, July 14, reaching a minimum of 110,000 meters each day in order to stay on track to beat the record.

“I am feeling good. A lot better than I was expecting. I am unbelievably confident that I will beat the current record. I am hoping to beat it by more than a day,” Cushman said.

His attempt to take the world record title is also his way of raising money for the Wakefield High School crew team. Every day, a live stream of Cushman is available to watch on Twitch where viewers can comment, watch him row and scan a QR code to donate.

Cushman said he feels like he owes it to the team to raise the money, as his four years on the roster helped land him a spot on La Salle University’s Division I crew team.

“Wakefield Crew does not have a lot of money. I want this money to be used to pay for kids who do not have the funds to be on the team, but do have the talent,” Cushman said. “I hope I can also raise enough money to help buy the team some new boats or equipment.”

Members of the teen’s family and his friends can often be seen sitting in the living room with Cushman, supporting and distracting him from the pain he said his body is in.

Cushman’s mother told ARLnow that she is very proud of her son and thinks it is impressive that he is dedicated to doing something so intensive.

For his part, Cushman says he is determined to complete his goal, despite how mentally taxing it has been to row every day for 10 hours, with only some momentary breaks.

“This is not something that I have been training for. I was the fastest guy on the team last year so I figured I could beat this record,” Cushman said. “Getting my name in the record book would prove to myself and others that I am an athlete to not forget about. I have the mental toughness to row for days on end and the determination to succeed.”

MedStar Capitals Iceplex (via Monumental Sports and Entertainment)

Could Arlington one day be the home of the Capitals and the Wizards?

The Washington Post says talks to build a new arena in the National Landing area, not far from Amazon’s HQ2, are underway — but are in the early stages. The talks come as Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which owns the NHL and NBA franchises, contemplates leaving Capital One Arena in D.C. after the expiration of a lease clause in 2027.

“MSE executives have also talked to Virginia government officials about relocating the Capitals and Wizards from downtown D.C. to Northern Virginia, near Amazon’s new HQ2, according to three people with knowledge of the situation, who were not authorized to speak publicly about negotiations,” the Post reported Friday. “Two people familiar with the talks, including a Monumental official, described them as preliminary and exploratory.”

“If Monumental were to leave for Virginia, it would follow Amazon into a neighborhood boosters have renamed ‘National Landing,’ which has already started experiencing rapid transformation,” the Post’s article adds. “The move would be a major economic development win for both Arlington County and Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), who has been mulling a 2024 presidential bid.”

It’s unclear where a new arena might go in the largely built-out neighborhood. The long-vacant PenPlace site, once contemplated as a possible landing spot for a Washington Nationals stadium before the team committed to D.C., is set to become the second phase of HQ2. That project, including the signature “Helix” building, is delayed but local officials expect it to get underway next year.

Another plot of land just to the west of PenPlace, however, is set for redevelopment, across from the Pentagon City Metro station, and located on a pair of high-capacity roads near I-395.

The Capitals already have a presence in Arlington — the MedStar Capitals Iceplex in Ballston hosts the hockey team’s training facility and team offices.


It may not be regulation hockey rink size, but off-ice hockey drills could easily take place inside the rec room of a Ballston home that is now up for sale, with a notable seller.

After working up a sweat, you could grab a drink from the wet bar in the room or make a post-workout snack in the kitchen, outfitted with high-end appliances.

Such uses would be a fitting tribute to former Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette, the soon-to-be former owner. He agreed to part ways with the team this summer and is selling his 7-bedroom, 6.5-bathroom home in walking distance of the Ballston Metro station.

The home at 608 N. Vermont Street hit the market today (Thursday) with a price tag of nearly $2.7 million. The listing on Redfin says the house is already “popular,” garnering north of 1,100 views this morning.

Realtor Danielle Johnson tells ARLnow she has a public open house scheduled for Saturday from 1-3 p.m.

“Obviously, the property in general is so special,” she says. “When they moved in, everything was almost complete. It was a custom built home and then, they came in and they added some amazing features.”

The Laviolettes extended out their paved driveway and added an interior and exterior security system, with an electric security gate, she said. They added custom closets, electric blinds and updated the landscaping, among other changes.

“So even though the house was unbelievable when they bought it, they put a lot of their own money into it with upgrades,” she said. “The Laviolettes left before they were really ready or hoping to, but that’s hockey.”

Laviolette and his wife, Kristen, bought the custom house in the fall of 2020, when it was almost complete and added those finishing touches. Johnson says it was their first “empty-nester” home, with few signs of wear and tear that come with kids.

“It is the first home they lived in while coaching with all the kids out of the house,”  she said. “They were excited to live closer to the city and out of the suburbs. They wanted to be able to walk to restaurants and shops.”

And, a year in, they told NBC Sports it felt like they were finally settling into the 28th home the family had lived in throughout Peter’s career. Before the Capitals, he coached the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers.

The real estate adage “location, location, location” was never more true than for the couple. From their Ballston digs, the head coach walked or took a bike to work every day, says Johnson.

“It’s steps away from Ballston Quarter,” she said. “It’s such an awesome location because you still get the feel of a neighborhood with all the beautiful homes around you but then you are literally a one-minute walk to Ballston Quarter and then to the Metro.”

Read More


(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) A new virtual indoor golf facility on Columbia Pike hopes to open by the end of the month.

The independently-owned Par Citi plans to open in the old LoanMax building at 3102 Columbia Pike “within the next few weeks,” managing partner Kristian Hara told ARLnow. That likely means tee time will be in the back end of May.

Construction is essentially complete with the business just waiting on receiving the certificate of occupancy from the county, he said.

The golf-centric complex will feature “state of the art simulators” inside of individual bays, similar to Five Iron Golf in D.C., per Hara. There will also be a cafe and bar with a Virginia ABC permit pending.

While it will technically be two floors, the basement level will be closed off per county instructions and the putting green in the original plans had to be axed, Hara said.

ARLnow first reported that Par Citi was aiming to putt on the Pike back in September. While a building once occupied by a car title lending company may seem like a odd place for indoor golf simulators, Columbia Pike provides a great opportunity because of the “potential of the neighborhood with the new condos [and] apartments being built,” Hara said.

A block away from Par Citi, construction on the Westmont development continues and could be wrapped up within the next several months. It will feature 250 apartments and a Five Guys returning near the spot of its first ever location.

Another block down, the Bank of America at 3401 Columbia Pike will be redeveloped and replaced with a residential development.

Hara said availability of space also played a big part in the decision to bring Par Citi to Columbia Pike, as opposed to another Arlington neighborhood like Ballston or Clarendon.

Prior to Par Citi and LoanMax, 3102 Columbia Pike was home to a family-owned furniture and appliance store that was a bit of a community-gathering place in the 1950s and 1960s. Owner Sol Cohen used to keep the store open late on Friday nights so that neighbors could watch boxing.

Iron Paddles members at the Walter Reed Community Center courts (photo courtesy of Jimmy Brown)

An Arlington-based group wants to “take over pickleball nation” and become the sport’s most talked-about organization within three years.

The Iron Paddles Pickleball Club is a 115-person-strong organization that sets up tournaments, clinics, and league play throughout the region. The club is locally-based but calls the courts at Walter Reed Community Center home.

The aim is higher than just Arlington or the D.C. area, co-founder Jimmy Brown told ARLnow.

“We are trying to take over pickleball nation, not just here,” Brown said. “When people think of pickleball, we want to be the first organization that comes to mind. From clinics to unique events… to pop-up tournaments to individual lessons, we want to be the brand that people think about three years from now when they think about pickleball in this country.”

Brown said about 80% of the current members are from Arlington or Alexandria, though there are members from Woodbridge, D.C., and Maryland.

Iron Paddles launched about two and half years ago at the height of the pandemic, when a smaller group was playing pickleball “really early in the morning” at Walter Reed, per Brown. They’d play so often and get so competitive that several regular players considered going pro.

“A lot of us… are pretty good players [now] and are trying to eventually get where they can eventually make some money in this sport,” Brown said.

That includes Brown, who lives in the Claremont neighborhood near Wakefield High School. He’s the son of former NFL football player Tom Brown, who played for the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s and won multiple Super Bowls. The younger Brown plans to join the senior pickleball tour in five years, when he turns 50.

“[My dad] always said, ‘If you play better competition, it’s going to make you better.’ So, I surround myself with better players than myself… who kick my butt every day,” Brown said.

He’s a school teacher, so he plays early in the morning — particularly in the summers when school is out — and in the afternoon after school is dismissed. He and 15 or 20 other Iron Paddle members can often be found playing into the evening at Walter Reed.

Brown admits he was one of those people who was playing at the community center courts at 6 a.m. last summer. The noise from the courts, mainly the infamous “pickleball pop,” led to some neighbors threatening legal action late last year.

He says he “completely understands” if some people got mad about being woken up to the thucks and pops of pickleball. The group has since moved to other courts for their early morning ritual, though he wouldn’t say exactly where.

Once the clock strikes 8 a.m., however, residents have to deal with the noise, Brown said.

“You chose to live by a rec center. After 8 a.m., it’s free reign. I’m sorry,” he said. “Turn the TV up a bit louder and shut your windows. I’m sorry. I know that sounds harsh, but people are trying to work out.”

As for the accusations of bullying children earlier this year, Brown said that is not true. Whenever kids have wanted to come to play basketball or tennis, the pickleballers he knows are “accommodating” and sometimes move the nets so they can play.

“If it’s super packed, now that’s a different story,” he said. “But nobody’s ever been belligerent and nobody’s ever been nasty.”

Read More

Yorktown High School’s MJ Stewart in 2011 (staff photo)

ARLnow has long avoided covering high school and youth sports, instead deferring to the coverage of the Sun Gazette (now the GazetteLeader) and the Washington Post.

While we’ll link to sports stories of particular note in the Morning Notes, by and large the decision has been to focus on general local news coverage.

There are two main drivers of this: there is a limited audience for high school sports coverage, relative to those who are interested in county government or local business news, and the logistics of covering multiple sports at three high schools is quite challenging, even more so if you add in youth leagues.

The bottom line is that we — like every other local news publication — are resource constrained and choose to use those resources on subjects that have the broadest audience.

While that decision makes all sorts of sense given our current business model, it’s possible that there might be a model that would work for sports coverage.

The audience for high school sports is limited (it seems to mostly be parents, current high school athletes and former athletes) but it’s also passionate. And if that audience would be willing to pay a subscription fee for exclusive sports content — via the ARLnow Press Club, at the current rate of $10/mo — we might be able to make it work.

Specifically, it would take a minimum of 500 ongoing subscribers for us to support the salary of a full-time sports editor. But if we could get there, we should be able to publish at least two original stories per day plus score roundups and a weekly email newsletter.

(For the record, ARLnow’s current local news coverage will always remain free.)

The poll question this morning is: would you join the ARLnow Press Club if it included original high school and youth sports coverage you couldn’t get elsewhere?

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, at Mattie & Eddie’s in Pentagon City with owner Cathal Armstrong (via @mattie_and_eddies/Instagram)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the prime minister of Ireland, took in a history-making rugby match at a bar in Pentagon City over the weekend.

Varadkar watched the Ireland claim the Guinness Six Nations crown on home soil for the first time in 75 years at Maddie and Eddie’s, the Irish bar at Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row) owned by notable local chef — and Dublin native — Cathal Armstrong.

Media outlets from Ireland and the UK wrote about and carried photos from Varadkar’s visit Saturday afternoon.

More from the Irish Examiner:

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has congratulated the Irish rugby team on winning the Grand Slam.

Ireland made history in Dublin as they completed just the fourth Grand Slam in their history as they were crowned Guinness Six Nations champions on home soil for the first time in 75 years.

Speaking in Washington, Mr Varadkar said: “Congratulations to the Grand Slam winning Irish team and staff.

“A fantastic achievement. Wishing them all the very best for their World Cup preparations.”

Varadkar posted a video showing him in the midst of a packed crowd cheering on Ireland.

“What a way to keep the St Patrick’s Day weekend going strong!” the bar wrote on Instagram.

Pickleball being played outside at Walter Reed Community Center (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

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.

There’s also a question that addresses the noise coming from the courts, a prickly topic that has led to threats of legal action.

“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.

In recent years, pickleball has become a hot-button issue in Arlington. The sport soared in popularity during the pandemic, with the county adding more courts to meet demand.

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.

2 Comment
Arlington Chess Club members in November 2022 (photo courtesy of Arlington Chess Club)

Membership in the seven-decade-old Arlington Chess Club has increased by more than 40% since prior to the pandemic.

The club has seen an influx of new members since coming back to in-person play in August at Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church, near Ballston, president Adam Chrisney told ARLnow. The club has been around since the 1950s, which likely makes it the oldest chess club in the D.C. area.

There are now nearly 225 members of the Arlington Chess Club, a 40% increase since early 2020, according to Chrisney. During the regularly-scheduled Friday night meet-ups at the church, 30 to 35 people on average show up. That number, though, has reached 60 a few times recently.

At the club’s monthly weekend tournaments, held at the Marriott Residence Inn in Ballston, participation is up “at least 20%” since those also returned in late summer.

The increased numbers mirror national trends, with chess’s popularity reaching heights not seen in 50 years.

Chrisney believes the renewed interest is related to two factors: folks increasingly taking up chess online, but then seeking out in-person play opportunities, and the streaming success of The Queen’s Gambit.

In the early days of the pandemic, people were sitting at home with not much to do. So, they went online to get their chess fix.

“Online chess was an activity that saw a huge amount of participation,” Chrisney said. “And I think people, once they got out [more], realize there were face-to-face opportunities to play chess.”

The Queen’s Gambit, meanwhile, which reached its zenith of popularity in the pandemic’s early days. The Netflix hit demonstrated that chess could be “sexy and cool,” Chrisney said.

The Arlington Chess Club was founded in 1954 by Col. John D. Mattheson, per the club’s website. It’s believed to be the oldest continuous club in the region and widely considered the strongest in terms of standard of play.

“The club has also produced more than its fair share of Virginia State Champions,” reads the website.

Chrisney is actually the only third president of the club in its nearly 70-year history. Despite its longevity and sterling reputation, the club does face long-term challenges. A permanent and affordable venue and a multi-member active board that runs operations are the two things that Chrisney believes the club needs to remain viable.

As much as he enjoys being the club’s president, it’s a volunteer position that requires a serious commitment. Plus, he misses playing.

“I used to be one of the more active players in the D.C. metropolitan area and [now] the amount I play is about 10% of what it used to be,” Chrisney said. “I want to get back to playing.”

Another long-term goal of the club is to get more age and gender diversity. While Chrisney didn’t have exact numbers, about 20% of the club is under the age of 18. That used to be a bit higher prior to the pandemic.

For years, the club was known as a place for young players “on the rise” to come to hone their skills.

“We probably see a larger quotient of prodigies than the other clubs,” Chrisney said.

Additionally, Chrisney would like to make a push to attract more female players with chess still being “mostly… a male activity.” He estimates less than 5% of club members are women.

He cited Chess Girls D.C., the non-profit that encourages more young women to play chess, as a potential future partner that could bring in more players to the club.

While a permanent venue, a more distributed volunteer workload, and added diversity in membership are all goals, Chrisney said there is no lack of interest in the Arlington Chess Club.

“We have been going strong since the 1950s,” he said. “And there’s no sign of dissipating.”

A tennis court at Glebe Road Park was restriped for pickleball (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

(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.

Read More

2 Comment

Subscribe to our mailing list