Mar 3, 2023 - Sports

The great pickleball war has reached the D.C. area

Illustration of a pickleball paddle hitting an exploding ball

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Pickleball is America’s new favorite pastime and worst nightmare all wrapped in one. The noisy sport has sparked NIMBY neighborhood fights across the country, the latest hitting Arlington.

Driving the news: Arlington County is proposing nine new courts exclusively for pickleball at Walter Reed Community Center, already a hotspot for the sport.

  • Homeowners nearby hate the idea.

Why it matters: Walter Reed sits in the shadow of the Army Navy Country Club. While the fight may resemble other clashes over the sport, this one has also sparked a Washington-style messaging campaign that’s made spectators of the neighbors.

Catch up quick: Last month, Team Pickle-nah — which, for the record, does have pickleball players in its ranks —  launched its first attack ad, if you will, distributing flyers that accused Team Pickleball of “hijacking” Walter Reed’s tennis and basketball courts, “bullying” children, and urinating in public.

Satirical pickleball posters with various messages.
Flyer drama as you've never seen before. Photo: Paige Hopkins/Axios

The response was a stealth campaign. Team Pickleball, or perhaps some of its amused allies — their identities haven’t been disclosed — quietly papered parks with satirical flyers making fun of Team Pickle-nah.

  • “D.A.R.E. to keep kids off pickleball,” one reads.
  • Another advertises a summer pickleball league, asking, “Enjoy bullying children? Wanna pee anywhere you like?”

Zoom in: Pickle-nah says Pickleball players bullied local kids off the tennis and basketball courts.

  • 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.

Of note: The potty problem was handled: The county added a porta-john.

Yes, but: Team Pickle-nah says it stinks.

People playing pickleball at Walter Reed.
A look at the pickleball court on a weekday evening. Photo: Paige Hopkins/Axios

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.

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