As Mark Ein surveyed a tennis court constructed on a roof, he considered a movie about creating a sports venue people will want to see.
“It feels like the ‘Field of Dreams,’ ” Ein said of the court atop Union Market in Northeast Washington, with views of the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument.
Ein owns the Washington Kastles and formerly held a majority stake in World Team Tennis, the mixed-gender professional league that is entering its 45th season overall and 12th in Washington. Starting with Monday night’s match against Vegas, his Kastles franchise will play in what Ein called an unprecedented venue: a court designed for professional tennis and built atop a building. (In 2005, an exhibition match between Roger Federer and Andre Agassi was played on a temporary court built on a helipad at a luxury hotel in Dubai.)
The pop-up stadium has a capacity of 700, down significantly from the team’s previous venues, which held 2,200 to 3,500 for Kastles matches. It will feature VIP dinner tables with food from restaurants in Union Market and the surrounding area, said Ein, who noted that the home schedule is sold out.
The idea belongs to Jodie McLean, chief executive of Edens, the real estate development company that owns Union Market. Ein said when she mentioned the idea, he was skeptical. He had been looking at various sites across the District to move the Kastles after five seasons indoors at Smith Center on the campus of George Washington University. A rooftop court was not on his list. But as he heard more about its feasibility, he believed it would be an intriguing setup.
“I thought maybe we were out of ideas,” Ein said. “Then we decided to put it on the roof of Union Market. To actually see it come to life . . . it’s spectacular and hard to believe it came together.”
The Kastles, one of eight franchises in WTT, are seeking their first league title since 2015, when they won the last of five in a row. This year’s roster will include Washington-area native Frances Tiafoe, Nick Kyrgios and Venus Williams, who is scheduled to play July 25.
“Every time I look into the stands in D.C., I know every single person,” said Tiafoe, 21, the Kastles’ highest-ranked player at 38th in the world. “I’m extremely excited to play for the Kastles. It was always my dream as a kid.”
Should all go well this month, Ein wants to call Union Market the Kastles’ home beyond 2019 as part of a permanent, year-round rooftop development.
As he looked over the rooftop court, Ein reflected on why he was there in the first place. He fell in love with tennis as a child while serving as a ballboy at the Citi Open, the pro event that he assumed management of this year.
With the Citi Open and the Kastles, he wants to keep high-level tennis in Washington, making the sport more accessible in urban environments.
“I want to bring tennis to the people, not people to the tennis,” said Ein, who plays on the weekends. “A lot of tennis is in far, remote places. Let’s bring tennis to the city.”