After five seasons of indoor tennis at George Washington’s Smith Center, the Washington Kastles are heading back outside. The six-time World Team Tennis champions are migrating again for the upcoming season, this time to the roof of Union Market.
Edens, the company that owns and developed Union Market, is constructing a specially designed rooftop venue to host seven home matches from July 15 to 27. The stadium’s 700-seat capacity is a downsize for the Kastles — who played in venues with capacities ranging from 2,200 to 3,500 in previous seasons — but it will retain luxury seating options, including VIP dinner tables and courtside boxes.
The benefits of the smaller locale, Kastles owner Mark Ein said, lie in the fan experience. Spectators will be able to drink and dine at Union Market’s food vendors downstairs, and fans will sit closer to the action than they did at Smith Center.
“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,” Ein said at a news conference Friday. “Literally, the last row, I think, is eight rows away from Venus Williams and Nick Kyrgios.”
The Union Market venue will be the Kastles’ fourth home since their inaugural season in 2008. The team played its first three seasons where the former Washington Convention Center stood, then moved in 2011 to a temporary home on the southwest waterfront before redevelopment of the Wharf began in earnest. Since 2014, the Kastles have played indoors at Smith Center.
Ein said the Kastles are hoping to make Union Market their home for the foreseeable future.
“We think this is our new home, we’re putting a reasonably big investment to make this work, and the hope is that we’re going to be able to be here for a long time,” Ein said. “We think it’s a sports venue unlike anything anyone’s seen anywhere in the world, and we want to come back here year after year . . . [The contract] is on a year-by-year basis with the intention that it’s long term. There’s a clear mutual intention that it’ll be long term.”
In addition to constructing what Edens CEO Jodie McLean calls a “pop-up stadium” during the World Team Tennis season, Edens is awaiting zoning commission approval to turn the Union Market building rooftop into a year-round park and entertainment venue with food and beverage options as well as an array of community programming.
Also new for WTT this year is a multiyear TV deal that will see 15 matches across the league broadcast on CBS Sports Network, including some Kastles matches.
Washington brings an exciting lineup to the new venue this season: Australian Open quarterfinalist and area native Frances Tiafoe will play in the stadium’s inaugural matches with a three-match homestand starting July 15, and former world No. 1 Williams returns to the team July 25. Former world No. 13 Kyrgios is also set to play, as are reigning Citi Open doubles champion Bruno Soares and rising star Yoshihito Nishioka.
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