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Here’s What It’s Like to Watch Tennis on Union Market’s Roof

Yes, they really pulled off building a 700-seat stadium up there.
Photographs by Dan Swartz.

When we learned in April that Washington’s pro tennis team, the Kastles, would play their 2019 season on the roof of Northeast DC’s Union Market, we had some questions. Chief among them: Can they really build a stadium up there that quickly? Luckily, the answer was yes. Jodie McLean, CEO of Union Market’s developer EDENS, says the stadium came together over 90 days, with a deck getting installed first, followed by the tennis court and seating. On Monday night, we were there as the Kastles played their home opener—and first-ever rooftop match—against the Las Vegas Rollers.  Here are eight takeaways.

1. If you’re planning to attend a match this season, consider taking Metro—the NoMa Red Line stop is only a few blocks away—or Lyft or Uber. Monday’s match started at 7 p.m. and by 6:30, the Union Market parking lot, plus its overflow lot, were totally full. In addition to the tennis crowd, after all, the market was still swarmed by its usual summertime diners. (If you have to drive, we noted street parking was still available a couple blocks over on 4th St., NE, outside the soon-to-open La Cosecha.)

2. If you haven’t bought tickets yet and you want to see a match, you should get them soon. The 700-seat stadium is much smaller than the Kastles’ previous venues, which could accommodate thousands, and this isn’t baseball—the season’s last home match is less than a couple weeks away, on July 27. A quick check of Ticketmaster shows a small smattering of seats still available.

3. There’s not a bad seat in the house. While the compact size means tickets are harder to come by, it also means you’ll have a relatively close-up view of the court no matter where you sit. Plus, the view of the match isn’t the only one to take in. From the more than 30-foot-high vantage point, you get sweeping vistas of neighboring Gallaudet University, the Capitol dome, and the surrounding city skyline. On Monday night, the crowd was also treated to a spectacular sunset, followed by a full moon.

4. There is security, but it’s not a huge pain. You don’t have to worry about the size of your bag (or having to transfer your stuff to a clear bag), but you can expect to have your purse searched before entering.

5. This is Union Market, so the food options are plentiful. There are concessions on the roof supplied by Union Market vendors, but you’re also free to order takeout from the market below and bring it up to the stadium.

6. It was hot up there, but not nearly as bad as we’d feared it would be. Monday reached 90 degrees, and there’s virtually no shade on the rooftop. But given the match’s 7 p.m. start time, the sun was low enough that it was bearable, with a nice breeze. By about 8, it felt just about like a perfect summer evening.

7. If you love tennis and can’t score tickets, you can still get in the spirit outside the market. There was a tent with Kastles merch set up right outside Union Market’s front entrance, plus a jumbotron showing the match. There was also a ping-pong tournament going on. Similar festivities are scheduled for the matches on July 20, 25, and 27, too.

8. Yes, we saw at least one tennis ball fly over the Union Market sign and off the roof.

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Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She was previously a reporter for Legal Times and the National Law Journal. She has recently written about the Marriott family’s civil war and the 50-year rebirth of 14th Street, and reported the definitive oral history of the Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt case. She lives in Northeast DC with her husband, two dogs, and two cats.