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Professional tennis is coming to a D.C. rooftop this summer.
Less than two weeks after announcing that he would take over management of the Citi Open tennis tournament in D.C., Mark Ein revealed on Friday in a press conference that his Washington Kastles World Team Tennis franchise would be playing in a new home.
Starting this season, the Kastles will compete at a 700-seat venue on the roof of Union Market in Ward 5, meaning that tennis fans will be able to watch Olympians and Grand Slam champions with a bird’s-eye view of the city. (Ein’s latest move may leave your mind churning on what else we can put on D.C. rooftops.)
George Washington University’s Smith Center had hosted the team’s matches since 2014. The Smith Center held about three times as many spectators. The Kastles started in 2008 at an outdoor arena on the site that would later become CityCenterDC and then moved to another outdoor venue at the southwest waterfront in 2011.
Ein, who also owns City Paper, says he’s been exploring a return to an outdoor space and hopes that the pop-up venue at Union Market will be the team’s home “for the foreseeable future.”
“We played outdoors, it was great, but the rain is a variable that I thought was a bigger issue for people,” he says. “We went indoors, people really liked it, it was an incredible atmosphere. But I could tell people wished we were outside, so we’ve been looking to get back outside, but we just wanted to find the right place to do it.”
The Kastles will play this season from July 15 to 29. Hyattsville native Frances Tiafoe, as well as Venus Williams and Nick Kyrgios, are all scheduled to play. CBS Sports will replace ESPN as the broadcast partner for World Team Tennis, an organization that Ein serves as chairman.
Ein credits Jodie McLean, the chief executive of EDENS, a retail real estate developer behind Union Market, with the idea of bringing the Kastles to the rooftop, and joked that when he searched for new sites a few years ago, he didn’t think “to look up.”
McLean, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, and Chinyere Hubbard, the vice president of communications and marketing at EventsDC, also attended Friday’s press conference, which saw a gathering of reporters and local restaurant owners.
“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,” Ein says. “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.”
Ein says that Kastles tickets will remain in the same price range at the new venue, and that season ticket holders who have already renewed are locked in for this summer. The smaller venue could mean fewer tickets to give away to local charities and military organizations, but Ein says he will be able to provide Citi Open tickets instead.
Before Ein finished speaking on Friday, rain began to fall and the breeze on the rooftop picked up. While Ein says inclement weather is a part of the sport, last year’s torrential rain at the Citi Open proved that Mother Nature can affect the bottom line of a tennis tournament. But in this situation, Ein believes, the pros outweigh the cons.
“Weather is an issue,” he says, “but so are magical summer nights under the stars.”