After three seasons on the city’s southwest waterfront, the Washington Kastles are moving indoors for the upcoming World Team Tennis season, returning tennis to a venue that a few decades ago hosted the game’s greats.
George Washington’s Smith Center will host the Kastles’ seven home matches from July 9-22, with its capacity of 5,000 pared to 3,200, including 48 luxury seats within a few yards of the baseline.
It’s the third home in seven years for the four-time WTT Champion Kastles, who have become something of a harbinger of the city’s downtown renaissance.
The team played its first three seasons on the former Washington Convention Center site, then relocated to the southwest waterfront with the understanding that its Stadium on the Wharf, offering river breezes and a view of the Washington Monument, would be dismantled once redevelopment efforts got under way in earnest.
To retain an outdoor vibe, the city block in front of Smith Center, 22nd Street N.W. between F and G streets, will be blocked off and turned into a pre-match festival with food vendors and activities for children, according to Kastles owner Mark Ein.
Ein signed a one-year deal with Smith Center, which underwent a $43 million renovation starting in 2008. Its high-definition scoreboard with replay capacity will be used for Kastles matches.
“We hope it’s a long-term partnership,” said Ein, who as a ninth-grader served as a ball boy when the venue hosted the Volvo Classic men’s tournament from 1976 to 1980, bringing Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl to town. The venue also hosted the Virginia Slims of Washington nine times between 1977 and 1990, featuring Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Baltimore native Pam Shriver and Martina Navratilova, who won the title seven times at Smith Center.
Former world No. 1 Martina Hingis will play for the Kastles in all seven home matches this season. Venus Williams, a former No. 1 and seven-time Grand Slam champion, will join the Kastles for their July 16 home match.