ARLINGTON, Va. — Renowned comedian and host of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" – Stephen Colbert – waded into the deep waters of the pickleball debate plaguing Virginia residents on Tuesday.
WUSA9 has reported on the pickleball drama at least five times since December. It's a residential conflict that Colbert dubbed on his show Tuesday night "The Great Pickleball War" – a term apparently coined by Axios.
What does the pickleball controversy boil down to? Well, it depends on who you ask.
"The great pickleball war has reached the D.C. area," Colbert said on his show, citing Axios for his information. "Virginia's Arlington County wants to build wants to build nine new pickleball courts, but homeowners in the area hate the idea so much that they've started distributing flyers that accuse pickleball players of hijacking tennis and basketball courts, bullying children, and urinating in public."
Colbert joked that pickleball wasn't the place for public urination saying that activity is for "aqua-robics."
Fans of the sport combining elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong have flocked to the courts Arlington County set up. But for most opponents, it's the racket from the rackets generating ire.
"It's just too much – 15 hours a day, seven days a week," said neighbor Armand Ciccarelli, who's been organizing against an expansion of the courts at the Walter Reed Community Center in Arlington Village. "People don't enjoy their homes. People can't use the [community center] facilities."
Along the stretch of 16th Street South next to the courts, neighbors say it's not just the noise. A flyer distributed here complains of large crowds from outside the county, public urination, bullying of children looking to play other sports, and a packed parking lot.
"We've seen the public urination," Cicarelli said, adding his displeasure with the county's addition of a porta potty nearby. "This is a community center. Children play here, now we've got a porta potty?"
The fate of the pickleball courts at the Walter Reed Community Center in Arlington were the topic of discussion and debate at a meeting on Feb. 16.
The open house gave the community an opportunity to gain insight on the plan for expansion. They had a number of stations set up regarding the layout, the amenities, sound reduction measures, landscaping and parking.
The project, as Colbert said, is expected to include nine dedicated pickleball courts, sound reduction measures, seating and shade. The county also wants to create pathways, make ADA access improvements and restripe the basketball court.
The love of the sport continues to grow. The Arlington Pickleball Club told WUSA9 they now have close to 2,000 members.
"Young, old, man, woman – we're all playing together," said Paul Smith, who's a fan of the game.
But, some in attendance of the Feb. 16 meeting told WUSA9 they felt played by the County's plans.
"They've elevated the rights of the pickleball group above the rights of the neighbors and users of the community center," said Ciccarelli.
He said the expected changes are not only unfair to the community who wants to use the center for things other than pickleball, but also tennis players. Beach told WUSA9 they did a study in 2019, and found that pickleball was the sport of choice at Walter Reed.
"We have a pretty healthy supply of tennis locations, this play that was here has been absorbed into those other locations," Beach said.
To which Ciccarelli responded, "I say the tennis players have no choice there's no sense in competing with large groups of pickleball players."
Ciccarelli and several of his neighbors near the center told WUSA9 they've been organizing together to fight the project, citing a number of concerns. See below.
This comes after Vienna's town council voted in January to limit pickleball after similar complaints. The sport can be played in Glyndon Park on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those new rules went into effect on March 1.
On the other four days, courts will be available for tennis.
Is pickleball louder than tennis?
One of the more common complaints about pickleball is noise.
In February, WUSA9 took to the courts to VERIFY if pickleball was indeed louder than tennis as some residents have claimed.
It turns out there could be a scientific reason why the sound made by pickleball hits differently than its long-standing cousin.
>Watch our full VERIFY report below:
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