WASHINGTON, April 13, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Imagine watching Venus Williams or Frances Tiafoe – even the mercurial Nick Kyrgios – play tennis under the stars with specacular views of the nighttime Washington, D.C. skyline from a seat no further than eight rows from courtside. This summer, in the words of Washington Kastles owner Mark Ein, it will be “tennis reimagined” in the nation’s capital city, on top of the epicenter of Washington’s hottest neighborhood.
On Friday, Ein announced plans for the Kastles of World Team Tennis to play their seven 2019 home matches, between July 15 to 29, on the roof of Union Market, in a specially-designed 700-seat tennis venue. Union Market, one of the nation’s premier food halls, is located in Washington’s NoMa neighborhood, near Gallaudet University. The Kastles will christen their new home on July 15 against the Las Vegas Rollers.
— Michael Dickens (@michaelcdickens) 12. April 2019
The six-time WTT champion Kastles have played in a variety of outdoor and indoor locations across Washington, including at CityCenterDC, where the team debuted in 2008; by the Wharf on the southwest waterfront, starting in 2011; and most recently, since 2014, at the Smith Center on the George Washington University campus in the Foggy Bottom district of the city.
“We went indoors, people really liked it, it was an incredible atmosphere,” said Ein. “But I could tell people wished we were outside.”
Ein revealed at a news conference that he had been exploring the idea of returning to an outdoor space. Now, he hopes the idea of a pop-up “stadium” at Union Market can become the team’s home “for the forseeable future” – even though it means playing before smaller crowds. Previous capacities for the Kastles ranged from 2,200 to 3,500 seats. Still, according the Ein, the team’s new digs will retain luxury seating options, which include VIP dining tables and courtside boxes.
“We are always thinking about how we can elevate the fan experience,” said Ein, “and we know many of our fans missed the summer outdoor environment that we had for our first six seasons. We looked all over the city for a place that would be spectacular and a neighborhood that would help create unforgettable summer evenings.
“The biggest downside of doing it here is how many fewer people that are going to be able to come, but I think for the people who are here, it’s going to be electric because it’s just going to be that intimate. Literally, the last row, I think, is eight rows away from Venus Williams and Nick Kyrgios.”
Kastles Stadium at Union Market – a stadium unlike any sports venue ever seen before. Watch the worlds best players under the stars with spectacular views of Washington’s skyline on top of the epicenter of DC’s hottest neighborhood. This is TENNIS REIMAGINED!#RefusetoLose pic.twitter.com/W0ZFNPMDMj
— Washington Kastles (@WashKastles) 12. April 2019
Jodie McLean, the chief executive of EDENS, a retail real estate developer who created the Union Market food hall, approached Ein with the idea of creating a roof-top venue for tennis. He bought in on the idea and concept of combining sport with great food and drink. Bon Appetit magazine has called Union Market, a Washington institution with a 148-year history begun as Centre Market near the White House (and since 1931 at its present NoMa location), one of the five best food halls in the United States.
“Literally, people can go downstairs to one of the best food halls in the United States in the middle of the match and go get food,” said Ein. “Go there before the match, go to incredible restaurants around the stadium after the match. I think this is an incredible experience no one’s ever seen before, not just for tennis, but all of sport.”
Although the Kastles’ contract to play at Union Market is on a year-by-year basis, Ein said that it’s the team’s intention for it to be long term. “There’s a clear mutual intention that it’ll be long term,” he said.
“As a Washingtonian who loves this city, I am dedicated to bring our community together and showcasing D.C. as a world-class destination through the power of sports,” Ein emphasized during his press conference on the roof of Union Market where the new Kastles stadium will be constructed. “Union Market has become a great unifier for our community. Kastles Stadium at Union Market will be the perfect home court for our franchise and will connect people from all walks of life throughout the region.”
• Currently, only season tickets for the Kastles are on sale at this time. For ticket information, contact the Kastles at washingtonkastles.com or call 202-4-TENNIS (483-6647).
• Australian Open quarterfinalist and Maryland native Frances Tiafoe will return for his third season with the Kastles and will play in the the new stadium’s first three home matches starting July 15. Meanwhile, Venus Williams will appear in one home match against Philadelphia on July 25, and Nick Kyrgios is slated to play in the Kastles final home match against Springfield on July 27. The Kastles’ lineup this season will also feature five-time Grand Slam doubles champion Bruno Soares, rising Japanese star Yoshihito Nishioka and 2017 U.S. Open junior champion Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine.
• Mark Ein also said during Friday’s press conference that the WTT has signed a multi-year TV deal to broadcast 15 matches from across the league on the CBS Sports Network in the U.S., which would include some Kastles matches.