Pickleball is simultaneously the new national game in America and its worst nightmare. Throughout the country, the loud sport has generated disputes in NIMBY neighborhoods, with the most recent one occurring in Arlington.
Driving the news: At the Walter Reed Community Center, a hub for the sport already, Arlington County is proposing nine new courts designated solely for pickleball.
Why it’s important The Army Navy Country Club casts a shadow on Walter Reed. Even though the conflict may seem similar to past disputes over sports, this one has also inspired a Washington-style propaganda campaign that has turned neighbors into onlookers.
Catch up quickly: Team Pickle-nah, which does, in fact, have pickleball players among its ranks, released posters last month accusing Team Pickleball of “hijacking” Walter Reed’s tennis and basketball courts, “bullying” youngsters, and peeing in public.
A covert operation was launched in response. Possibly some of Team Pickleball’s amused allies—whose identities have not been made public—quietly posted satirical leaflets in parks mocking Team Pickle-nah.
“D.A.R.E. to keep kids off pickleball,” one reads.
Another states, “Like bullying kids? Check out our summer pickleball league. Want to urinate wherever you please?
Meanwhile, so many people flock to the courts that the parking lot is always full, resident Armand Ciccarelli tells Axios.
And then there’s the thwack-thwacking at all hours. “There’s a sense that they own the courts,” says Mary McKee, who lives directly across the street and has called the cops on pickleball players who have stayed past the 10pm closing time.
Between the lines: No other pickleball playing ground in the county has as many courts or paddlers as Walter Reed does.
Arlington needs more courts, Ciccarelli says, and would do well to put them in non-residential areas — with strict regulations.
What’s next: Erik Beach, of Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation, tells Axios that the plan to put the courts at Walter Reed won’t change, and the county plans to start construction next spring.
Nonetheless, there is room for discussion about the number of courts and their specific location at the rec center. Civil discussion, of course.