When Mark Ein assumed management of the Citi Open in March from the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation, the Washington-based venture capitalist said his vision for the tournament was to make it “the place everyone wants to be” for nine days every August. For Ein, a former ball kid at the event who has called D.C. home for a half-century, that meant revamping the fan experience at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center, which wasn’t a particularly welcoming place on sweltering or rainy nights in the past.

“The first thing I wanted to address was the food and fan areas,” Ein said Friday at a news conference to announce the draw for this year’s tournament, which begins Saturday with qualifying matches. “I wanted to have the best of Washington food in fun, comfortable areas where fans could gather indoors."

The largest new gathering spot is a fully air-conditioned tent on the east side of the stadium called Market Square that is open to all fans. The venue provides seating for several hundred, nearly a dozen TVs, views of five practice courts and a stage, where retired Australian tennis pro and longtime commentator Rennae Stubbs will talk tennis every night. There is also a bar offering cocktails, beer and wine, but the real highlight — besides the air-conditioned, covered comfort — is the new food.

Ein partnered with his friend, Chef José Andrés, and Andrés’s team at ThinkFoodGroup to bring two stands, Butterfly Tacos y Tortas and Beefsteak, to Market Square. Butterfly Tacos y Tortas, which has an outpost at Audi Field, will offer chicken, shrimp and beef short rib tacos ($14 for three), as well as elote corn ($9) and chips with guacamole and salsa ($9). Beefsteak’s vegetarian menu includes a beet poke bowl ($10) and a $9 “burger” featuring a beefsteak tomato, pickled red onion, caper vegan mayo and alfalfa sprouts. The Beefsteak burger was among the tastiest items this meat-loving reporter sampled on Friday, and the competition was fierce.

Levy, the new exclusive food and beverage provider for the tournament, also brought in Oro Pizza, Dolcezza Gelato and Duke’s Grocery, which has locations in Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle and Woodley Park. The Duke’s stand at Market Square will offer the restaurant’s classic Proper Burger ($14), spicy chicken tenders ($12) and curry curly fries ($10). Oro will offer several different kinds of pizza, including black truffle and pepperoni with hot honey. Dolcezza will serve a variety of hot and cold drinks ranging from $5 to $8, as well as breakfast pastries and gelato.

“We wanted to bring in fresh, local food, and really get away from the concession stand environment,” Chef Al Lanza of Levy said. “These are mini restaurants. It’s a completely different style. Everything is cooked to order."

If mini restaurants at sporting events aren’t your thing, more traditional concession items, including hot dogs, nachos and pretzels, will continue to be offered at stands along the outside perimeter of the stadium. Other new food and beverage options at this year’s tournament include Compass Coffee, Ice Cream Jubilee and OakBerry Acai Bowls. (Brazilian Bruno Soares, who won last year’s doubles title at the Citi Open playing alongside Jamie Murray, is a shareholder in OakBerry.)

Outside of Market Square by the northeast corner of the stadium, José's Way will feature Andrés’s Pepe food truck, a sangria stand and a second Beefsteak stand. A new beer garden and grill on the west side of the stadium will also be open to all fans, with a German menu including schnitzel and bratwurst. While the beer garden isn’t fully enclosed, it is covered, providing another place for fans to congregate in the event of rain.

“That was one of the problems in the past,” Ein, who founded the Washington Kastles of World Team Tennis, said. “VIPs had a nice, tented room that they could go to, but other fans didn’t if it was raining or if it was hot.”

Citi card members will have access to the air-conditioned Citi Lounge north of the beer garden, while Citi gold members will have access to a separate tent and an extensive menu. New premium ticket options include the Moet & Chandon Stadium Club, an air-conditioned booth with seating for 40 overlooking the northeast corner of the main court, and 10 dream seats located on the court.

“The thing about tennis is, it’s the kind of event people will go to for four, five, six hours,” Ein said. “You need comfortable places to go and the right food to eat.”

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