Billie Jean King co-founded World TeamTennis back in 1974, and her last Grand Slam title came more than 30 years ago. And yet, as she walked along the Southwest waterfront in Washington on Tuesday for the official ribbon-cutting to inaugurate the new home of the WTT’s Washington Kastles, King’s mind wandered to her playing days.
“I think about it as a player, and I just hope it doesn’t get too windy,” said King as she gazed at Kastles Stadium at the Wharf, which sits along the docks of the Washington Channel near the corner of Maine Avenue and Ninth Street. “But it just looks more beautiful and it’ll keep it cooler for the fans during the summer time. For Washington, it’s unbelievable.”
This will be the fourth summer in Washington for the Kastles, and after three years at a temporary facility erected each June on the former site of the city’s convention center, the franchise believes the latest version of Kastles Stadium will be a significant upgrade.
The new stadium offers views of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial, and will have a capacity of 2,700 for tennis matches. It could seat up to 4,000 for concerts and other events once the Kastles season ends. And since it’s just steps from the water, this will be the first tennis facility in the United States to allow limited boat parking.
Kastles owner Mark Ein said Tuesday that once the possibility of moving to the Southwest waterfront was proposed a year and a half ago, the franchise would not have considered staying in its downtown Washington facility even if the space were still available. The team had an agreement with the city to leave its former location once development began.
“I really think this is going to take the whole experience to another level,” said Ein, a Chevy Chase native. “Sitting here on the water, these views, and then having the opportunity to bring people back to this part of town and see it is something that makes it an incomparable location for us.”
Monty Hoffman, chief executive of developer PN Hoffman, which teamed with Ein to fund the project, said it cost approximately $1 million to build the stadium. It is the first major structure to be completed as part of a 10-year, $2 billion redevelopment project along the Southwest waterfront.
Hoffman said the facility will remain in this location for the next two years, and then move farther east near the Washington Channel Inn once phase one of the re-development is completed.
“I think having it down here will make it accessible to lots of people,” Mayor Vincent Gray said. “The important thing is to use this as a catalyst to get tennis infused all across the city, especially east of the [Potomac] River where we have so many kids.”
The Kastles season runs July 5-24, and Washington’s roster will once again feature Venus and Serena Williams. John McEnroe and Sam Querrey are also scheduled to appear at Kastles Stadium this summer.