William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center – Washington CITI Open
Photos by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center 16th St NW & Kennedy St NW Washington, DC 20011
Year Opened: 1991
Big Time Tennis In The Nation’s Capital
The William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center is a tennis venue located in Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. The venue has 15 hard courts, 10 clay courts, and five indoors courts. During the Washington Open there are generally six hard courts used for competitions, with others used for practice only.
The Washington Open began in 1969 and competition was originally held on outdoor clay courts until 1986, when it switched to the current hard courts. The location of the event in Washington, D.C. was chosen at the urging of Arthur Ashe, an early supporter.
The Washington Open is part of the ATP World Tour 500 and WTA International circuits. The women’s event was first held in 2011 in College Park, Maryland as the Citi Open, and for the 2012 season, the ATP and WTA decided to merge their Maryland and Washington spots into a joint tournament, with the women’s event moving here.
The Washington Open occurs in late July and early August over just beyond a one-week span. Starting with the 2019 event, venture capitalist and owner of the Washington Kastles, Mark Ein, assumes management of the event with the promise of making necessary changes and to keep the finances from getting out of hand. Some of these fan atmosphere changes are already being seen, but one should expect even more changes to occur later as Ein has a financial interest in making the tournament a success, as well as he is a massive tennis fan.
Food & Beverage 4
There are quite a few options around the facility. A brand new food court has been setup just outside the main stadium in an air conditioned tent. There you will find some good ethnic options especially ones from renowned chef José Andrés.
The prices are pretty expensive but the overall quality and selection around the venue sort of makes up for the cost. The air conditioned tent will also be a nice cooling off spot to get away from the hot temperatures of the daytime hours.
Going to a major tennis event like this is not the same as going to more raucous sporting events. The actual matches will be extremely quiet, with cheering and yelling happening only during breaks, unless a player has a major meltdown, which usually does happen at least once at each tournament.
The best way to enjoy an event such as this is to not to watch a single match, but to wander from court to court, especially the practice ones. You are getting multiple things out of your ticket.
The main grandstand seats 7,500 and is a pretty basic 4 sided seating structure. It, as well as the small grandstands that make up the venue grounds, will not excite you with their design nor makeup. The game action is what you are coming for.
Starting with the 2019 event, the tournament has been investing heavily in the fan experience. Check out this video that does a good job of showing some of the changes at the Washington Open:
Dacha Beer Garden and Dino’s Grotto are just two of the great options in the lively Shaw neighborhood.
Did I mention you are right in the middle of Washington, DC? The amount of attractions, museums, restaurants and other sights are astounding. Spend some time pre or post game seeing the many things around this great city. The new African American History museum just opened recently as well as the National Portrait Gallery, which is located across the street from the arena, are great choices.
You could also hit up the college town of College Park, which is not far away. RJ Bentley’s Filling Station, Potbelly Sandwich Works, Jimmy John’s, Ledo Pizza, and Five Guys are all good options in this “downtown” area. Looney’s Pub and Bobby’s Burger Palace are two other great options, and are located in The Varsity building (8150 Baltimore Ave) north of the downtown area, and maybe even closer to the arena if walking.
Nando’s PERi-PERi is a new addition to the area and offers their legendary butterfly-cut, flame-grilled PERi-PERi chicken. I prefer the half chicken with the medium PERi-PERi sauce and a side of Macho Peas.
Tennis fans are one of the most knowledgeable sports fans you will ever encounter. They may be quiet because of the built in courtesies of the game, but they know how the game should work and when to root and cheer as necessary. It is a great thing to witness.
The Rock Creek location is not located in the easiest part of DC to get to, but it’s not too bad if you plan ahead carefully.
There is limited parking on site for $20. The lot may close in bad weather as it is an open field, controlled by the National Park Service. The best option is instead to take the free shuttles from the Geico Headquarters and Lord & Taylor lots in Chevy Chase Village. There will be many other food options over there, which helps your entire experience.
Return on Investment 4
The prices can range from $15 per session to much, much more. The fancy suites and party tents show this pretty well.
When you buy a ticket, you get an assigned seat in the main stadium, as well as the ability to sit at any of the smaller courts, although at a first come, first served basis.
With the decently priced tickets and the ability to use a free parking venue, the value is high. Even if the food is not the cheapest, the overall experience is certainly worth it.
There are freebies, giveaways, contests and activities for kids of all ages scattered around the venue. Between all the tennis, and the activities, you can waste an afternoon pretty quickly.
They do not use the clay courts for the Washington Open, but it worth checking out this area to see the action over there. The general public, as well as scheduled classes use them even during the professional event.
Look for players wandering the venue. They are often open to talking to fans, although make sure to stay out of their way if they are in serious game mode.
The ability to get so close to major stars, as well as upcoming ones, is an extra all in itself.
Check around the venue grounds as there are some art work and other items that display the history of this event, especially the influence of Arthur Ashe.
The Washington Open is a fun event to see and makes the trip to Northeast DC and the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center worth it for any sports fan.