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Inside Kraken, D.C.’s Sprawling New Spot to Pick Up a Paddle and Beer

The pickleball-centric sports complex swings open with food truck eats and canned beverages

Kraken Kourts & Skates opened in mid-May.
Fredde Lieberman

The pandemic-fueled penchant for the popular paddle-based game gets a local boost at Kraken Kourts & Skates, a ginormous sports complex that recently arrived in Edgewood’s booming Bryant Street NE development.

The pickleball court welcomes novices and local leagues.
Fredde Lieberman

The shiny new center lines up 14 pickleball courts alongside D.C.’s only indoor roller-skating rink. Capitalizing on the fastest-growing sport in the country, the D.C. team behind Petworth’s Hook Hall and Penn Quarter’s Kraken Axes goes all in on the pickleball craze at Kraken Kourts & Skates (514 Rhode Island Avenue NE). The 70,000-square-foot venue also carves out room for family-friendly activities and courtside cabana lounges for cocktail-fueled cheering.

“What is amazing about pickleball and roller skating is that both sports have this mass appeal,” says Anna Valero, president and co-founder of Pirate Ventures (the parent company of Kraken and Hook Hall). “We focus on the experience for everyone.”

The roller rink offers skate rentals and private parties.
Fredde Lieberman

While the ping of pickleball is the main draw, indoor lawn-style games ringing the courts include cornhole, Jenga, and darts. Murals include swirling octopus tentacles slithering across the walls, opening bottles of beer and waving D.C. flags.

Kraken offers a mix of tabletop games.
Fredde Lieberman

The complex will grow this summer with the arrival of a 30,000-square-foot beer garden taking up a next-door parking lot. For now, the bar program is centered around a wood-roofed tavern at the far end of the complex to fuel up spectators and players alike.

“A little liquid courage can help people going courtside to on the court [or] sideline heck[ling] in the cabana to picking up the paddle,” she says.

Kraken has a full liquor license to serve a host of beverages for pre- or post-game needs, nodding to canned drinks as the best handheld vehicles for imbibing. Mixed drinks and seltzers from Cutwater Spirits, Devil’s Backbone beer, and Neutrl make appearances, as does D.C.-born Blossom’s canned espresso martini.

The wood-framed bar at Kraken.
Fredde Lieberman
Empanadas from Latin eatery Cocineros in Hyattsville, Maryland.
Fredde Lieberman

Given all the kids running around, there’s a big zero-proof program. You’ll see Prime, Ghost, and other trendy sports energy drinks, plus the sizzling-hot Liquid Death sparkling water, milk, and juice.

Kraken doesn’t have a full-service kitchen on-site, but a kitchen trailer is in the works and waiting for permits and licensing to go live. The incoming menu (below) will include pub grub like wings, nachos, mozzarella sticks, (veggie) burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, half-smokes, and snack platters.

For now, Kraken brings in a rotating cast of food truck vendors with a focus on women- or minority-owned small businesses. Thus far, eats have included soul food from Coleman Kitchen and 7 Starr Wings, among other barbecue-centric food trucks. For bigger events and roller-rink birthday parties, newly opened neighbor Taqueria Habanero hooks up Kraken with tacos, guac, and other Mexican fare.

“We had the opportunity to think through how to serve the multigenerational neighborhood. If we learned anything from COVID, it’s that we need a place where people can connect,” she says.

Cabanas can cater to birthday parties.
Fredde Lieberman
A next-door beer garden will join the mix this summer.
Fredde Lieberman
Pickleball players at Kraken.
Fredde Lieberman
Darts are also a draw at Kraken.
Fredde Lieberman

Pickleball leagues have already kicked off, including the DC Pickleball Team, Volo, Stonewall’s LGBTQ teams, and youth programs.

Hours are Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday from 6 a.m. to midnight. Reservations are highly recommended for pickleball and roller skating, but walk-ins are accepted too.