seattle public tennis courts
there are 61* public tennis courts in the city of seattle and i plan to play on every one of them before the end of the summer**. below are the courts i've played on so far, a mini-review of each, and a link to their page on the seattle parks department site with directions (if available), among other things.
* update: c did some sleuthing and obtained a seattle parks department map that seems more updated than their website. we compared the listing of tennis courts and found that there are really only 51 functioning tennis courts in the city of seattle, which accounts for some of the errors we've found (the derelict lakeridge playground, the two listings for rainier playfield and genesee that turned out to be the same court).
** another update (9.06.04): i realize that "end of the summer" initially meant summer 2002, but obviously that didn't happened. however, i'm still quite earnest in my attempt to accomplish this goal, so as long as it's not too hot and c and i have the time, we will continue to pursue this dream until we've played at all the tennis courts in seattle.
note: i am not good at tennis. i play for fun. my criteria for a tennis court being good are quality shade, good atmosphere, decent playing conditions (though i'm not too picky), quiet, no wait for a court, and lit at night.
- miller playfield
super dreamy. close to my apartment on capitol hill, clean, lit until 11pm, well-maintained, courts in great shape. highly recommended.
- mt baker park
nice neighborhood. beautiful trees. (there's a great swing in the accompanying playground that's fun!) courts are only ok, but doesn't really detract from the overall experience.
- madrona playfield
lovely. courts are cracking a little bit, but there are trees fringing the area and it's on a quiet street. park also includes a playground, soccer field, and basketball hoops. there's money in this neighborhood... *note: this is listed on the parks department website as being madrona park (which is actually located on lake washington blvd). however, that madrona park does not have tennis courts. this one, located off of 34th and just south of union, is the one with the courts.
- montlake playfield
strange courts. they seem to be sinking into the wetlands they're probably built on, so the playing surface is uneven and dips severely. pretty view looking north, though. sadly, no lights in the evening.
- garfield playfield
it was so hot when we played here, mostly i just remember sweating a lot. i also distinctly remember the kids smoking up nearby. i think the courts, like montlake, are sinking, but not quite so severely. but, it seems as if they're never busy, which is always good in my book.
- madison park
07.26.02. 6:0. (i just realized it would be nice to add the dates i've played each court, so there you go. c also mentioned i should include the scores, too. the # of games i won is listed first, c is second.) no lights here at night, but otherwise it's super pretty. there are two courts, both in good shape. the neighborhood is a little ritzy, so the park is clean and well maintained. there's a gap in the fence so sometimes balls will roll outside. oh well...
- leschi park
07.27.02. 4:2. wow! this is the best one so far. there's only court, but it's set back on a hill overlooking lake washington, with a quiet road on one side and madrona trees perched nearby. not only that, but the court is the cleanest and best maintained we've seen. no cracks in the asphalt, no droopy net. it was pretty hot when we played, so we had to stop early because i got woozy, but i'd go back in a flash. extra bonus points for a drinking fountain located in the shade.
- observatory courts
07.28.02. 6:2. i would recommend you go play here immediately, however i'm sure you will never, ever find it. it took c and me at least a half an hour driving around queen anne--with a map--to get here. but what a payoff! there's nothing here but tennis courts, and the two are tucked behind a fire station and two water towers. the other sides are ringed with trees and a radio tower. at first glance one of the courts looked pretty crappy--it wasn't smooth and green like most courts--but playing was excellent. bonus points for the plaque at the court that reads "wpa project, 1938 - 1939". now this one is my new favorite.
- hutchinson playground
07.28.02. 0:1. what a journey to get here; an unlikely location for sure. aside from the strong smell of gasoline and the rain (which i suppose wasn't the fault of the courts), this was ok. i wouldn't make this a destination or anything, but it's fine if you live in the neighborhood. the net was sagging and damaged, and the asphalt was cracked, but you can still play just fine.
- lakeridge playground
07.28.02. 0:0. nothing. there was absolutely nothing here but an old, flaking sign to suggest that once--ages ago--people played tennis here. it's probably because this is the furthest south tennis court in the city of seattle (one more step and you're in renton), so maybe the parks department forgot it was here? it looked like the restrooms in the playground were being used as some kind of gay cruising spot.
- south park playground
07.28.02. 1:3. the park was deserted, most likely from the rain, save a couple crouched behind the baseball diamond doing something i can only guess was illicit. i was distracted because i had to keep an eye on c's car (there was sign posted that read "high prowl area"), so i wasn't playing my best. also, my stomach hurt quite a bit, but that's beside the point and now i'm off topic. overall, the court was ok, nothing fancy. there were cracks here and there and some trash scattered around, but it wasn't horrible. but i'm not sure i would make an effort to go back anytime soon, either.
- hiawatha playground
07.31.02. 6:4. i had hoped a playground sporting the name hiawatha would be rustic and summercamp-esque, but really this was just a big community center in west seattle with three courts, two of them already busy. i think we've been spoiled playing in such deserted places, now all that's left are these really popular courts. ah well. we were quite intimidated by the other people playing, but as soon as we realized they weren't so good we stopped caring. and even though it's not noted on the parks department website, these courts are lit at night. cool!
- sand point magnuson park
8.2.02. 6:6. c put it best, "it feels like we're in another state. like minnesota." it's true, it's so dreamy/pretty/idyllic here. sand point is right on the water, an old navy base, in fact. now it's a giant park with old barracks and loopy roads and playfields and such. the tennis courts were perfect, too, and hardly busy. there are six of them. the only complaint i have is that the courts are really dirty. so dirty that our balls were filthy by the time we finished playing and my hands were grubby. bonus points for the nearby restrooms that are built into the earth. i love that.
- kinnear park
8.3.02. 3:6. we had a dickens of a time finding the tennis courts in this park, so you probably will, too. (tip: rather than approach the park from olympic, go down to roy and go as far west as you can. you'll run right into the courts at the road end.) of course, if you come from up top, you get to wind down through the most gorgeous trail ever. the one court is nestled (really, it is nestled) at the foot of a hill in the middle of a northwest temperate rain forest. huge trees above, only diffused green light on the courts, totally quiet and isolated. if you look through the trees to the west, you can see the puget sound. the court is a little cracked, but it didn't hinder game play. there was some trash on the court, but c was kind enough to pick it up.
- rainier playfield
8.4.02. 3:3. i wish i could have enjoyed this court, but i didn't. we chose to play the exact time the blue angels were doing their horrifying routine over lake washington, so we heard it all. it was awful and loud. also, the courts (4 of them) are located right next to rainier ave, so there's a lot of traffic. and while i'm griping, it got really hot while we played, and there's zero shade here. other than those problems, the courts were ok, but i'm not sure i would go back. on the plus side, they're right by fasica, the best ethiopian restaurant in seattle, so it would make a nice little fieldtrip some day. there are also lights, so you can play at night.
- west magnolia playfield
8.4.02. 5:2. four courts in a really big park. they're laid out nicely, too, and very clean. it was stormy when we played, so we cut the set short. i can't think of anything remarkable about these courts. they were very clean. if i lived in magnolia, i would play here. yeah.
- volunteer park
8.8.02. i won, but i don't remember the score. there was an all hands meeting this morning, but nobody goes to those anymore. so, we took the morning off and went to breakfast, and then got a quick set in before we rolled in to work at noon. and while the circumstances were super dreamy, the court was equally dreamy. we initially only saw one set with two courts, but while we were playing i looked through the trees and saw another set of two below, that are well hidden and equally nice. this is probably the closest court to my apartment, and one of the best. volunteer park is gorgeous, thanks to the olmsted brothers, those cool fellas who also designed nyc's central park. the courts are set way back in the trees where it's quiet and cool. they're also so well-maintained they should be a model for all public tennis courts. and while you're at volunteer park, you can check out the seattle asian art museum, a really nice greenhouse, noguchi's black sun, and gay boys going at it in the bushes.
- david rodgers park
8.9.02. i won, but i don't remember the score. these are up on queen anne, and are pretty decent. i'd probably only play here again if i lived in the neighborhood, though. i wouldn't want to be here in the morning, as there's no shade at all on the east side. otherwise, the courts are okay. there are three of them, and it doesn't seem like they would be busy often. while we were playing, we met someone on the adjacent court who works with us. crazy.
- i-90 lid, aka judkins park
8.10.02. 3:2. damn, it was hot when we played here. there is zero shade, and the courts are straight-up cement, which reflected the sun so much that it was blinding. the lines are painted in white, too, so they blend in with the cement so much we often couldn't tell if the ball was in or out. the park is located off a really busy street, so the noise was overwhelming. we had to shout to hear each other. but the neato thing is this park really is over the top of I-90. it might be nice to come here late in the evening when the sun is setting. i bet it would be pleasant and cool and you'd have an awesome view of the city. p.s. even though my knee hurt i still kicked c's ass. yay, me.
- lowman beach park
8.11.02. 3:5. so much excitement at this court. first off, we played doubles! stephanie and ed joined us, and it was girls against boys. plus, this tennis court has one of the most beautiful views i've ever seen--we were there at dusk and we got to watch the sun set behind the olympics over the water. it's right on the shore of the sound in west seattle, and the waves are literally lapping up right next to the court. there's only one court, and yeah, it's a little ratty and tired and there are no lights at night, but who cares when you have a view like that?
- brighton playfield
8.13.02. i forgot the score, but i'm sure i won. this playground is bustling. there were people playing soccer, kids hanging out on the tennis court, a basketball game going on, and little kids running around having a good time. i think an ice cream truck was also roaming the neighborhood. it was a nice feeling. there are two courts here, and they're ok, but not glamorous. i think i'd come back here for the atmosphere more than anything, though.
- cleveland high school
8.16.02. i forget the score. in fact, this court was utterly forgettable. and icky. it's way too loud, as it's right off of I-5 and directly north of boeing field so planes are taking off and landing right over your head. the three courts they have are nassssty. our balls got all dirty and the nets are all saggy. i feel bad for the tennis loving folks who live around here and don't have access to decent court.
- bobby morris playfield
8.17.02. i think me and dave won? doubles again! this time we played with stephanie and dave. both of them claimed to not be good, but they were great. bobby morris is just two blocks away from c's place, so it's funny we hadn't played here before. the dreamiest thing about them is that they're lit at night. also, they're pretty well maintained (though people like to litter here a lot). here's the shitty thing, though. there used to be 3 courts, and they got rid of one and put in some creepy children's playset. i wouldn't let my kids play there. i'd rather they played tennis. i also heard in the long run they're going to turn it into a basketball court. boooo!
- ravenna park
8.21.02. 6:3. i really can't think of anything to say about these courts. nothin' special, really. two courts, sort of in okay shape, in an ok park in ravenna. one court was busy but the other was free. semi-shaded. the only highlight was that there were people playing softball nearby and having a bar-b-que on the sidelines.
- meadowbrook playfield
8.28.02. 6:2. the greatest thing about these courts is that they're lit at night, and you can turn the lights on whenever you want. there are six nice courts here, and they're part of a large community center so they're in nice shape (and probably never all occupied). the only cruddy thing is that if you play on one of the back three courts, there's this gutter that ridges two sides that all your balls will inevitably roll into. plus it's super dirty down there, so they get really nasty. c and i thought that maybe the courts were bigger than most of the ones we've played on, but then we realized that we had just gotten rusty, as we hadn't played seriously in a while.
- laurelhurst playfield
8.30.02. 4:4. c and i played here for a while, and then ju joined us. this court is beautiful, as i looks right over the u-district and the water and seattle and all that. the only problem with this court at this time of day (early evening), because of the western exposure, is that it was way too hot. really, way too hot. by the time ju got there we were sweaty and pooped. but the four courts are really nice and clean, and there's a drinking fountain right outside the gate. it seems like it's busy a lot, though, because this is a big money neighborhood (bill gates used to live here before he built his mansion in medina) and these folks are big on tennis.
- seward park
8.31.02. 10:4. this was our third attempt to play here: the first two times it was busy, and because there's only one functioning court (the other one has no net) we really didn't want to wait around. but we got here in the early morning, which seemed to be the perfect time to play. it was totally shaded by the trees, and it's on the water so it was lovely and breezy and cool, and the view was so nice. plus, there were birds chirping and it felt unbelievably idyllic. ryan and alicia joined us, so it was a nice doubles game, which i think we're both getting better at. i would definitely come back here again. definitely.
- ravenna-eckstein park
9.1.02. 6:4. this court had the whole small-city-neighborhood-community-center vibe going on. it wasn't really anything special (one court, in ok shape, maybe a litte uneven but not too bad), but there was some kind of party in the adjoining community center, and there was music spilling out, and kids hanging out, and the tennis court bordered a road end, so it felt like a real neighborhood. it made me wish i lived here so i could come here whenever i wanted.
- bryant playground
9.2.02. 6:3. nothing special. there are two courts, the net on one is pretty shaggy. the playground is uninspired, the only cool thing is it's across the street from a PCC, so you could have a picnic here after tennis if you wanted (we didn't because the grass was squishy and gross).
- dearborn park
9.3.02. 6:3. what a pleasant surprise! we thought this would be some icky playground, but it turned out to be a quaint park right off of beacon hill, tucked away through some trees. when we pulled up there was a white rabbit munching away on some grass, and kids were playing soccer on the giant field below. the tennis courts seemed like they would be really shaded during the day (but we were there at dusk). the courts aren't too bad either, the nets are intact, and the surface is even and uncracked.
- soundview playfield
9.26.02. 6:4. this is totally nothing special, so you probably shouldn't waste your time here. despite the name, you can't even see the sound from the courts. that's such a bait and switch. there are only two courts, no shade, no lights at night, and c thinks they're sloping toward the south corner.
- van asselt playground
3.28.03. 6:4. yay! we're back at it. van asselt wasn't really the best place to resume our tennis tour, but it wasn't the worst, either. plus, i had taken some ativan the morning we played here because i will still upset over backing out of our japan trip, so things were king of fuzzy. but what we did realize is that any tennis court on beacon hill is way too loud because of the all the planes that fly over it. we had to constantly yell at each other to be heard. there are two courts, and they're in ok shape, but nothing special. there's a surrounding playground with basketball hoops (kids were out playing). and it's by that new holly development that they're always touting on KUOW (by the way, the greenbelt they go on about is really just a strip for the powerlines to run through).
- bitterlake playfield
3.29.03. 6:4. i won again! bitterlake isn't just a fancy name, there really is a lake here. it's not really that spectacular, though, but it's better than no lake. the courts—there are four of them—are right off of a busy street, which is right off of aurora, so it's also very loud. the highlight of playing here is that c and i bought a tennis ball basket, the kind that you can flip one way to carry the balls, and then flip the other way to stand the basket up so you don't have to reach down to get to them. also, you can pick up balls by squishing them through the underside of the basket. so cool! but back to the courts: they're ok, but i probably wouldn't make them a destination, even though there are lights for night time playing.
- alki playground
3.31.03. 6:0. i generally don't like west seattle or alki, but this court was quite nice. just one block off the water and on a residential street adjacent to a community center and playground. there were kids out playing on the large field and it was beautiful outside. there are two courts here and they're pretty good. at least, standard seattle public tennis court fare. if i could offer one critique, i would mention the tiny gulch around the edge of the courts that traps your balls.
- lincoln park
3.31.03. 6:4. so idyllic! i felt like i was at summer camp. you have to park a ways away and then walk into the park to find the tennis courts. but good luck doing that--the courts are well hidden behind a baseball diamond and c and i walked right by them and had to turn back to get to them. but they were so pretty. you can see the water from the courts and they're surrounded by trees and green stuff and nature. however, one full side of the two courts has no fence, so balls will roll off and into the field. also, one side of the courts was facing directly into the sun, so it was hard to see and, thus, successfully play tennis. but the other side was entirely in the shade, which is generally a good thing, but not in this case because the court was still wet and covered in some kind of slimy moldy stuff that was treacherously slippery. so the choice was be blinded by the sun or slip to your death. we think it might be better in the summer when the sun is high enough in the sky to dry off both sides of the courts, and it would be a good place to play in the early evening when the sun is in the west and not in your eyes.
- riverview playfield
6.14.03. 6:2. i can't think of anything remarkable about these tennis courts. riverview is a bit of a misnomer, since there is no river and certainly no view. just a plain old playfield. looks like they're doing some construction in the park, and the courts are in great shape, so i suspect they're newly redone. there was some kind of girls fastpitch tournament going on (there are about a zillion ball fields in this park), so the park was pretty happening when we were there. but i probably wouldn't come back here on purpose.
- beacon hill playground
9.03.04. 6:1. one side of these courts was in the shade (there are two of them), and therefore, really dreamy. the other side faced directly into the sun and was blazing hot, and therefore, was hell. the courts were just okay, a little run down but we've seen worse. on a quiet street without a huge amount noise (you know, relatively speaking). this area of beacon hill is in a mostly mexican neighborhood, which is unusual for seattle, so it was a nice change of pace. that's all.
- georgetown playfield
9.03.04. 6:0. oh boy, where to start? first off, i've never been that close to a landing plane before in my life. seriously, this court must be just several blocks north of boeing field and directly in the flight path because i could probably throw a rock into the sky and hit a plane. also, it's right next to the train tracks and we were lucky enough to have a train go by, then back up, and then go by again in the course of our game, all the while blowing it's horn. in a nutshell, this wins, hands down, as the loudest tennis court thus far. also, we should have brought a broom because the court was really dirty, though mostly just from debris from the trees around the court (really, there were some lovely old trees in the park). there's just one court here, and it's not lit at night. also, a tip: if you don't mind the noise or are deaf or something and you end up playing here, you should walk across the tracks and have a beer and some pizza at stellar. it's a nice end to a day of tennis touring.
- high point playfield
9.19.04. we didn't actually play here, because the two courts are being redone and there were no nets yet. but this is just a placeholder until we actually do, and a warning to any aspiring high point playfield tennis players. the sign on the gate says they'll be done near the end of september (?). but the new surface looks pristine and awesome, and the entire community center vibe is pretty appealing so we'll be back.
- delridge playfield
9.19.04. 6:2. i wasn't that impressed with these courts (there are two of them) when we pulled up, but by the end of the set we played i really liked it. they're in this large playfield/park/community center that's relatively nondescript, and the distant sound of traffic (probably from marginal way, maybe, or even 99) made it a little loud. but most of the court was shady enough by the time we were there (around 4:00 or so) and there was a lovely breeze, and no one else was around so i felt like it was our own little space. the courts don't appear to be lit, and not in great shape, but decent enough for me. there was a nice bench on the sides to take a break on, but the water fountain just outside the courts wasn't working when we were there.
- highland park playfield
9.19.04. 6:3. there's one court here, and it's not lit at night. it wasn't anything special, but there was enough shade to make it bearable. the courts were okay, though probably not kept up so well. we tried to enjoy our set, but we had a difficult time concentrating because there were two very young boys trying to steal our balls. i tried to explain to them that they could have just one of the balls if they wanted, but neither spoke english so they just kept trying to take them. kids are cute, but not when they're thieves, and especially not when they're thieving in the midst of your tennis game!