April 5 | Written by Jon Laaser
Admittedly, a year ago I had never played pickleball. I had heard of it, but had no idea my life was about to be changed by it.
Fast forward to today, and I am in the midst of hosting the largest-scale tournament we have taken on, the Body Armor 804 Open, and am also well down the road on creating a vision for RVA pickleball that I share with Lee Warfield and other founding members of PPBRVA. We have dubbed PPBRVA “pickle paradise,” and that is not in the least something we say in jest.
I met Lee, of course, playing pickleball at Pouncey Tract Park. A place that rapidly became like a second home for me. In a short amount of time, the people there have supported my efforts to improve as a player, as well as our foundation, Laaser’s Ladybug Society. It delights me still that so many took a leap of faith with our first pickleball tournament last year, the Ladybug Classic. Due to that acceptance, it more than doubled in size from year one to year two. It moves me even more so that so many of the regulars there have become friends and have supported even our non-pickleball fundraisers in our mental health mission.
Lee and I hit it off immediately, starting with our enthusiasm for the sport and later his support of our Ladybug Classic. It’s hard to believe how quickly PBRVA has come together, but as Ferris Bueller memorably said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t look around every once in a while, you might miss it.”
What Lee and I discovered quickly was that although we are both relatively new to the sport of pickleball, it had very quickly taken hold of our lives. Providing fulfillment of competitiveness and community that oftentimes fade as life moves into its second act. We also had a very similar enthusiasm for what could be possible as it pertained to the pickleball community that had embraced us. For me, that started with the player tournament experience. With my background in athletic promotion, it occurred to me that just as is the case for spectator sports, providing the little things and being extremely detail-oriented could greatly enhance the player experience at local events. The result of that are the two tournaments I currently host and the numerous partners that have bought into that philosophy. That philosophy will certainly pertain to PPBRVA.
What I didn’t know was that Lee was already working on my big dream. With his involvement in the commercial real estate world, and more specifically as a partner at Regency, he envisioned a top-flight indoor/outdoor facility that would cater specifically to pickleball and allow for a community center for the game year-round. Fortunately for me, Lee and his team invited me along on the journey. Since then, we have had many conversations, sharing our passion for creating a space that would become a home for friends, family and the game as a whole in RVA. Part of that vision is being omnipresent. I want to mix into your games if you need a fourth, and so does Lee.
We wanted that vision to include the spirit of the sport that drew us in the first place. That means an inviting facility for players of all ages and skill levels. New players experiencing the game for the first time and bringing the sport to the younger generations while also providing diverse opportunities for the top players in the region as well. We will have an elite team of instructors catered to wherever you may be in your pickleball journey, and an inviting staff selected because they also share that passion and vision for what pickleball can be.
It is exceptionally important to our entire team that the heart of the sport in Richmond and the people that pioneered it are included in this vision. In the coming days, weeks and months, you will witness our intent to involve many of the people and places that have grown the game in this region.
Collaborating with the counties that have supported the sport, and the parks it has thrived in is also crucial to what we strive to build. As is creating a spirited network of other private and public clubs in the interest of everyone in the RVA enjoying the sport that we have come to love to the fullest.
While we have been able to move quickly, we have not done so recklessly. As we announce PPBRVA, you can rest assured that we have sought the opinions of countless people in the sport, and also done due diligence on the successes and missteps of facilities that have come before us nationally.
It is an ambitious vision to be certain, but the responsibility of which we take very seriously. As has been the case since my first pickleball event last year, we will continue to solicit your ideas of how to enhance the sport for all and ask that you please not be shy about letting us know your thoughts. If you don’t know who we are, I’ll be the one cursing the wind when I miss a drop shot and Lee will be the one telling me it’s okay.
The bottom line is, you will be the true vision of PPBRVA, and we know that together we can show everyone what pickleball in RVA is and can be. We can’t wait to share that vision with you!
All right, zero-zero start. See you on the courts!