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Official Review by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
World Team Tennis (WTT) was formed in 1973 and played their first matches in 1974. After about four years the original league folded. Three years later, a group fronted by tennis legend Billie Jean King started the league back up again. King was part owner of the entire league and was Commissioner until 2001, when she gave up that job to Ilana Kloss. King is still one of the owners of the entire league, and also controls the Philadelphia Freedom team.
A WTT match includes five sets: one each for men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles. The scoring is cumulative and the team with the highest point total wins the match. It gives tennis players the ability to work toward a common goal, something that they can only usually get in doubles matches, at best.
The Philadelphia Freedoms were one of the founding teams in the league. They eventually merged with the Boston Lobsters. This current version of the Freedoms started in 2001. Before playing at their current home, they played at Cabrini College and at a temporary outside stadium at King of Prussia Mall. They have played on the Villanova University campus since 2010.
The Pavilion arena was originally called the John Eleuthère du Pont Pavilion. When that namesake was convicted of the murder of Olympic wrestling gold medalist Dave Schultz the current name came into usage. The Pavilion is the usual home of Villanova University basketball, although some larger games are moved yearly to the larger off-campus Wells Fargo Center. The usual 6,500 seat capacity is reduced to 3,500 for Freedoms matches.
It is said that Elton John’s song “Philadelphia Freedom” was written for his friend Billie Jean King. it is more than just a rumor, but John made sure to write a song that reflects more than just tennis. It honors the entire city, especially the history of the local music scene. The song is used at home matches at numerous parts of the night.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are some very good food options at Freedoms matches. The usual concourse food stands are not opened, but a food court exists at the end of what is referred to as Expo Alley. Hamburgers are $5, jumbo hot dogs $4 and chicken tenders and fries for $7. You can also get french fries alone for $5, with sodas a value at $3. Bottles of local beer Yards is available for $6.
The Freedoms strive for a combination of a family type atmosphere, along with one that welcomes local VIP types. It really does work, as fans seem to be welcomed very well. The whole match is a party, albeit a refined and dignified party.
The Pavilion is a very strange building. The ceiling itself is very unique, with its hyperbolic paraboloid roof providing some unique angles. The seating concourses are split between four direction-based stands. The south and north stands are not in use, and are the home of some VIP and party sections. The east and west stands have upper and lower areas, with the upper used for general admission seating.
The arena is outdated, but it works. It is unique and somewhat confusing. The concourses are small at parts, and shockingly way too wide also at parts. It is a fun place to wander around, but it is strange, too.
Villanova is part of the Main Line in Philadelphia. This area has some of the wealthiest towns in the country, including Lower Merion, Radnor and Gladwyne.
There are many food options in and around the area. Peace a Pizza has good pizza by the slice, often with some unusual options. 333 Belrose Bar & Grille (333 Belrose, King Of Prussia, PA) is worth a bit of drive for high end dining. A good close option is Kelly's Taproom, which is the closest in walking distance and has many good food and drink options.
Of course, the city of Philadelphia is close by, so many options exist in that large city. Philip's Steaks at 2234 West Passyunk Avenue is a great suggestion for traditional Philly cheesesteaks.
The fans are not your usual tennis fans. They are very respectful and knowledgeable, but you will see kids running around, and points are not played in total silence.
The most fascinating part of a tennis match can be to watch the head movement of an entire seating section during play. It is something you may not see or notice at most other sports.
Villanova University is located on Route 30/Lancaster Avenue, not very far from I-76 (Schuylkill Expressway). Route 30 is busy, but is usually not a problem to drive on.
Parking is plentiful across Lancaster Avenue from the Pavilion. Parking is $10.
Public transportation is close by, as you can take a SEPTA train from 30th Street Station in downtown Philadelphia to the on-campus Villanova stop.
Tickets can start at $15 on the Freedoms' website for general admission. There also tends to be ticket codes given out by the team on their Facebook page, at times. A family of four should be on the lookout for the $79 package that gets you four tickets, four sodas/waters, four bags of chips, and four hot dogs.
The team also offers $10 tickets for the ending part of the season, so make sure to do some research before paying full price.
No matter what price level one ends up with, the quality of tennis players and skills in evidence makes for a good value.
Villanova University athletes are usually in attendance to offer posters and autographs for young fans. Kids can get a thrill out of this, even if they have no idea who they are getting that signature from. Speaking of autographs, the post match autograph session is a great way that a fan can meet with some amazing tennis talent. Andy Roddick, Martina Hingis and the Williams sisters are just some of the players seen.
The Philadelphia Freedoms also try to engage the community, so you may see local tennis clubs and community groups discussing their ideas for the fans. Kids will love the many giveaways.
Check out some of Villanova University's trophies in the antiquated trophy cases on the second level concourse.
The family atmosphere of a Freedoms match is a great place to spend some time together and still see some of the best tennis talent you will ever see. Players enjoy playing together in a team setting, something they don't get to do often. The fans are the winners, no matter which team wins the match.
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1107 East Lancaster Ave
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
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