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Racket from rackets has Arlington neighbors booing pickleball

Neighbors say the county is expanding pickleball courts at Walter Reed Community Center despite issues with noise, crowds and after hours public urination.

ARLINGTON, Va. — The pickle over pickleball is bubbling up in Arlington again, as neighbors and players of the sport smashing through the country seem unable to see eye to eye. 

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. 7 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."

Vienna's town council voted last month to limit pickleball after similar complaints. The sport can be played in Glyndon Park Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting March 1. On the other four days, courts will be available for tennis. 

Cicarelli says Arlington County built pickleball courts in the neighborhood without ever consulting residents. And now, he says the county is building even more courts.

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?" 

But Arlington resident Bruce Shuttleworth disagreed that the courts were causing problems. 

"For this reporting trip, you can report no signs of public urination or overt bullying," Shuttleworth said, while out playing with a crowd of friends on Tuesday afternoon. "If I had a billion dollars, there's nothing on earth I'd rather do than play pickleball at Walter Reed, the pickleball capital of Northern Virginia." 

Some fans of the sport admit the banging of lightweight plastic balls back and forth does make a lot of noise. Supporters are looking for a compromise with neighbors.

"You can regulate the hours, you can change the paddles, you can change the balls," pickleball fan Robert Thompson said. "I think the sound issue can be dealt with." 

Cicarelli would like to see Arlington take a page out of Vienna's book.

"We'd love to talk at a minimum about restricting the days and hours," he said. "If we can do what Vienna just did, that would be great. But the county doesn't seem to have an interest in that." 

The county has scheduled a public meeting Thursday at the community center starting at 7 p.m. Cicaelli, however, believes the county has already decided to expand pickleball at Walter Reed, and is only giving neighbors a chance to influence the design.

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