Verizon Center

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This article is about the Washington, D.C. arena. For the Arkansas arena, see Verizon Arena. For the Minnesota arena, see Verizon Wireless Center. For the Los Angeles skyscraper, see MCI Center (Los Angeles).
Verizon Center
"The Phone Booth"
Verision Center Logo.svg
Verizon Center
Former names MCI Center (1997–2006)
Address 601 F Street Northwest
Location Washington, D.C.
Coordinates 38°53′53″N 77°1′15″W / 38.89806°N 77.02083°W / 38.89806; -77.02083Coordinates: 38°53′53″N 77°1′15″W / 38.89806°N 77.02083°W / 38.89806; -77.02083
Public transit Washington Metro
WMATA Red.svgWMATA Green.svgWMATA Yellow.svg at Gallery Place
Owner Monumental Sports and Entertainment
Operator Monumental Sports and Entertainment
Capacity Basketball:
20,674 (1997–2002)
20,173 (2002–2010)
20,278 (2010–2011)
20,282 (2011–2012)
20,308 (2012–2013)
20,356 (2013–present)
Ice hockey:
19,740 (1997–1999)
18,672 (1999–2002)
18,277 (2002–2010)
18,398 (2010–2011)
18,506 (2011–present)[1]
Field size 1,020,000 square feet (95,000 m2)
Broke ground October 18, 1995
Opened December 2, 1997
Construction cost US$260 million
($388 million in 2017 dollars[2])
Architect Ellerbe Becket[3]
Devrouax & Purnell[3]
KCF-SHG Architects[3]
Project manager Seagull Bay Sports, LLC.[4]
Structural engineer Delon Hampton & Associates[5]
Services engineer John J. Christie Associates[3]
General contractor Clark/Smoot[6]
Washington Wizards (NBA) (1997–present)
Washington Capitals (NHL) (1997–present)
Georgetown Hoyas (NCAA) (1997–present)
Washington Mystics (WNBA) (1998–present)
Washington Power (NLL) (2001–2002)
Washington Valor (AFL) (beginning in 2017)

The Verizon Center, formerly known as the MCI Center, is a sports and entertainment arena in Washington, D.C.

Named after its sponsor, the telecommunications company Verizon Communications, the Verizon Center has been nicknamed the "Phone Booth" by local fans, because of its historical association with various telecommunications companies, such as MCI Inc. and Verizon. Located in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., the Verizon Center sits atop the Gallery Place rapid transit station of the Washington Metro.


The Verizon Center is home to the Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association (NBA), Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League (NHL), the Georgetown University men's basketball team, the Washington Mystics of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), the Washington International Horse Show and was formerly the home of the Washington Power of the National Lacrosse League (NLL) from 2001 to 2002. It will soon be home to the new Washington Valor team in the Arena Football League in 2017.[7][8] The arena's seating capacity is 20,308 for basketball and 18,506 for ice hockey.[9]

The Verizon Center is owned by Monumental Sports & Entertainment and is situated on top of land leased from the District of Columbia. The Verizon Center was built in the mid-1990s solely with private financing and was originally owned by Abe Pollin from 1997 to June 2010. On June 10, 2010, following Pollin's death in November 2009, the Pollin family sold Verizon Center, along with the Washington Wizards and the Washington-Baltimore area Ticketmaster franchise, to Ted Leonsis, who already owned the arena's other tenant, the Washington Capitals. Leonsis subsequently formed a new management company—Monumental Sports & Entertainment. The Verizon Center is largely considered to be a commercial success and is regarded as one of the driving catalysts of the revitalization (and gentrification) of Washington, D.C.'s Chinatown neighborhood.[10] A report emerged in May 2015 that Verizon would not renew its naming rights to the Verizon Center when its agreement with Monumental ends in 2018.[11][12] In the same week, it was announced that Etihad Airways signed a deal to become the official airline of the arena, sparking speculation that Etihad might be the leading contender to assume naming rights in 2017.[13]


The Verizon Center, located in the Washington, D.C. neighborhood of Chinatown, originally opened on December 2, 1997, as the MCI Center, named after its sponsor, MCI Inc. Nearly a decade later, in January 2006, Verizon Communications purchased MCI Inc. and the arena's name was changed accordingly.[10] The following year, in 2007, the "first true indoor high-definition LED scoreboard" was installed at the Verizon Center.[14] On December 2, 2007, the Verizon Center celebrated the ten year anniversary of its opening.[15] In December 2013, all electronic communications to and from the scoreboard and advertising fasciae were updated by ColosseoEAS.[16]

Notable events[edit]

Verizon Center, then known as MCI Center, on game night (the Wizards vs. the Hornets), January 20, 2006.
Washington Capitals game on February 1, 2011, featuring the Verizon Center markings on the ice surface.
The Washington Wizards in an NBA game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, December 5, 2007.
Verizon Center is located in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Charity initiatives[edit]

  • At the start of the 2010–11 NHL season, Verizon Center food partners Aramark and Levy joined the Washington Capitals in a NHL-wide food donation program called Rock & Wrap It Up. The program has since been extended to all events at the arena. With this program, almost all food that is prepared for games and events that goes unused is donated to DC Central Kitchen.[27]
  • On February 10, 2012, the Washington Capitals hosted the third-annual Caps Care Casino Night and Auction. Over 600 fans turned out for the sold-out event, playing casino games to earn raffle tickets, snacking, dancing and participating in live and silent auctions, with proceeds benefiting the Children's Hospital Foundation, Love for Lokomotiv and Washington Capitals Charities. The event raised a total of $353,851 for the various charities.[28]
  • During the 2012–13 NHL season, the Capitals Courage Caps program raised more than $105,000 for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). Since the program began during the 2007–08 season, the Courage Caps campaign has set a new record for giving each year. By the end of the 2012–13 season, a total of nearly $350,000 was given to TAPS through the program.[29]
  • Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation donated $10,000 to the NHL's Thurgood Marshall College Fund at the Congressional Hockey Caucus Briefing on Capitol Hill on April 24, 2013. This academic scholarship is part of the partnership between the NHL and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund for participants in the NHL's Hockey is for Everyone (HIFE) initiative, the League's official youth development program.[30]
  • During the 2013–14 school year, 20 staff members from Monumental Sports & Entertainment participated in the Everybody Wins! DC Power Lunch program, a literacy and mentoring program based in select elementary schools in the Washington metropolitan area. Each week during the school year, MSE staff members took time out of their days to visit with their mentees, spending time reading and conversing during lunch.[31]
  • Washington Capitals forwards Jay Beagle, Aaron Volpatti and Tom Wilson and Washington Wizards guards Bradley Beal and Glen Rice, Jr., joined more than 250 volunteers from Eagle Academy Public Charter School and Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, organizers from KaBOOM! and residents of the Congress Heights neighborhood in September 2013 to build a new playground at the Eagle Center at McGogney. Students at the school had been playing indoors or on a field with no-play structure. The new equipment provided more than 1,200 children in the neighborhood with a safe place to play.[32]
  • In October 2013, Washington Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt, alumnus Paul Mulvey and mascot Slapshot participated in the Playworks Washington, D.C., Hockey Extravaganza at J. O. Wilson Elementary School. The extravaganza served as the launch for the Playworks co-ed street hockey league, a pilot program with students from Arts and Technology Academy Public Charter School, Bruce Monroe Elementary School, Smothers Elementary School, West Education Campus, and J.O. Wilson Elementary School.[33]
  • The Washington Capitals raised $39,521 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's National Capital Area Chapter during the team's Hockey Fights Cancer Night on October 19, 2013, by auctioning off autographed jerseys that the players wore during pregame warmups.[34]
  • In October 2013, the Washington Capitals partnered with Homeward Trails Animal Rescue to create the 2014 Capitals Canine Calendar. Homeward Trails is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that provides pet adoption in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. The calendar, which went on sale December 3, 2013, features photos of Capitals players with their dogs as well as dogs from Homeward Trails. All proceeds went to benefit Homeward Trails. The previous Capitals Canine Calendar raised $30,000 for the Washington Animal Rescue League.[35]
  • On November 7, 2013, the Washington Wizards hosted wounded warriors from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as well as families from Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) at Verizon Center. The visit was part of the launch of Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation's Wizards Courage Program.[36]
  • Monumental Sports & Entertainment partnered with NBC4 for the Food 4 Families food drive, held on November 25, 2013, outside Verizon Center. Fans were encouraged to drop off non-perishable canned goods or make monetary donations in order to help families in need in the D.C. area at Thanksgiving.[37]
  • In December 2013, Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation and Hoops for Youth Foundation collaborated to provide a new outdoor basketball court for Horton's Kids. Horton's Kids is a local nonprofit that provides education and enrichment programs to young people in D.C.'s Ward 8.[38]
  • Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation's Family-to-Family program took place in December 2013. Capitals players Nicklas Bäckström, Eric Fehr, Mike Green, Steve Oleksy and Joel Ward; Wizards players Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker, Nenê, John Wall; and Martell Webster; and Mystics coach Mike Thibault delivered gifts to four underserved families in Washington, D.C.[39]
  • Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation received the inaugural Corporate Engagement Award as part of the 2013 Mayor's Community Service Awards on December 17, 2013. The Mayor's Community Service Awards are presented annually to recognize, reward and encourage activities that make or have a significant impact on meeting the needs of District of Columbia communities.[40]
  • The Washington Capitals and Braden Holtby partnered with the Children's Wish Foundation of Canada to grant the wish of 8-year-old Braden Nienaber to meet the Capitals' goaltender and other Capitals players from January 11–12, 2014.[41]
  • Washington Bullets alumnus Bob Dandridge, Capitals Hall-of-Famer Rod Langway and Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent C. Gray participated in a MLK Day of Service project hosted by Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation and Playworks Washington, D.C., at West Education Campus in northwest D.C. on January 20, 2014.[42]
  • Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation raised more than $88,000 for Cancer Train and Flashes of Hope through an auction on Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night presented by Leidos on October 28, 2015. Leidos donated an additional $20,000 for a total of $108,780 raised. The Washington Capitals are teamed up with the National Hockey League through Nov. 13 to educate the hockey community about cancer through Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month. Hockey Fights Cancer is a league-wide initiative founded by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association and is dedicated to raising awareness for national and local organizations involved in cancer care and research.[43]
  • On November 14, 2015, the Washington Capitals hosted the fifth-annual Caps Care Casino Night and Auction. More than 400 fans attended the event, playing casino games to earn raffle tickets, snacking, dancing and participating in live and silent auctions. Proceeds benefited the Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation. The event raised more than $300,000 for the Foundation.[44]
  • Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation raised more than $46,000 for Defending the Blue Line and USO of Metropolitan Washington Baltimore through an auction on Salute to the Military Night on February 4, 2016. Salute to the Military Night is an evening dedicated to honoring the men and women who have served the country in the armed forces. The MSE Foundation auction featured autographed jerseys, goalie masks and pucks. During warmups, players wore camouflage Capitals jerseys which were signed and auctioned off.[45]
  • The Caps' Better Halves raised more than $37,000 for Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation through their annual gift basket auction held at the Capitals game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, February 7, 2016. The Caps' Better Halves created 23 gift baskets, one for each player and one for the coaching staff, filled with their favorite things, autographed items and jerseys. Almost all of the gift baskets sold for $1,000 or more.[46]
  • Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation presented check for nearly $45,000 to Homeward Trails Animal Rescue on March 1, 2016. The funds were raised through the sale of the 2016 Caps Canine Calendars. The money will help provide medical and behavioral care, as well as permanent homes, for hundreds of dogs and cats rescued by Homeward Trails Animal Rescue.[47]
  • So Kids Can participants Karl Alzner, Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals and Elliot Segal from the Elliot in the Morning show unveiled a refurbished pediatric hematology/oncology outpatient waiting area at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital on March 17, 2016. The room is hockey-themed with Capitals highlights and was funded using money raised from the last three seasons of So Kids Can. Architecture Inc. designed the space, while Hunter Contracting built the waiting room for patients battling childhood cancers and blood disorders.[48]
  • Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation raised nearly $50,000 through the Washington Capitals Green Auction held in March 2016. All proceeds benefited the Anacostia Waterfront Trust with $5,000 being earmarked to the Anacostia Watershed Society. The MSE Foundation auction featured autographed green jerseys and pucks with green Capitals logos on them. During warm ups, the players wore St. Patrick's Day themed Capitals jerseys which were then signed and auctioned off.[49]
  • During the 2015–16 NHL season, the Capitals Courage Caps program raised $140,000 for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). Since the program launched during the 2007–08 season, the Courage campaign has raised nearly $775,000 for charity through the sale of more than 22,000 Courage hats in nine years and more than 11,000 Courage T-shirts in seven years.[50]
  • In 2016, Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation awarded $30,000 in scholarships through District of Columbia College Access Program (DC-CAP).[51]
  • During the 2015–16 season Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner, forward Nicklas Backstrom and goalkeeper Braden Holtby, along with Elliot Segal from the Elliot in the Morning show, raised more than $23,000 for Horton's Kids through So Kids Can. Horton's Kids is a social change organization that empowers at-risk children in Anacostia, and prepares them for success in school, career and life. Each player and Segal will donate $50 per Capitals win during the regular season and $100 per Capitals win during the playoffs.[52]

Fan fixtures[edit]

Two notable fan fixtures at Washington Capitals games at Verizon Center since the late 1990s include Goat and The Horn Guy. "Goat", a.k.a. William Stilwell, sits in Section 105 and loudly stomps and starts cheers for the team, with his loud voice that The Washington Post once called "the loudest voice and stompiest stomp on F Street." [53] "The Horn Guy", a.k.a. Sam Wolk, sits in section 415 and blows out three blasts on a horn to which the arena responds "Let's Go Caps!", a chant that can be heard during all radio and TV broadcasts.[54]


Health code violations[edit]

In August 2010, ESPN's Outside the lines segment reported that the Verizon Center was one of only two major sports arenas in the U.S., and the only in the NBA/NHL, in which 100% of food vendors were found with at least one "critical or major" health code violation. Violations included mice droppings in at least ten different vending locations.[55][56]

Role in Chinatown[edit]

When the arena opened there was concern[57] that it would lead to the displacement of Chinese businesses and culture [57] in the area that is the city's Chinatown. The surrounding area has indeed been dramatically gentrified, and most of the Chinese residents and businesses who lived and operated in the neighborhood when the arena first opened have been displaced because of the spike in real estate prices.[58] The Chinese population in Chinatown is a ghost of its former self—recent estimates hold that the number of Chinese in the neighborhood is down to around 400 to 500.[58] The Chinese-owned restaurants and businesses in the Chinatown area are largely gone and there has not been a full-service Chinese grocery in the neighborhood since 2005.[58] In their place, new residents and visitors to the area find an increasing number of mid-tier and upscale chains, such as Hooters, Fuddruckers and Legal Sea Foods.

Ice quality issues[edit]

In December 2007, then-Capitals captain Chris Clark gained a bit of press by stating that he believed the Verizon Center had the worst ice in the NHL. "There's a lot of ruts in the ice. It's soft. It's wet half the time. I could see a lot of injuries coming from the ice there. It could cost [players] their jobs... Even guys on other teams say the same thing. When we're facing off, they say, 'How do you guys play on this?'" Capitals owner Ted Leonsis addressed this criticism directly.[59] The ice quality issue has been persistent both since the opening of Verizon Center and with the Capitals franchise in general.[60] Since Leonsis' acquisition of Verizon Center, the quality of the ice has gotten better and number of complaints has noticeably decreased. During playoff games, the arena installs a system to help remove hot air and humidity to maintain the ice conditions during warmer times of the year.

"Attendance Champions" banners[edit]

The "Washington Mystics Attendance Champions" banners that hung at the Verizon Center had been the focal point of much criticism over the years, with many people believing that the rafters should be reserved for achievements by sports teams and not by the fans. Critics thought it was insulting to have banners for championships and retired numbers hang next to "attendance champion" banners. Originally there were six banners (1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2004); the number was later reduced to three in 2007 (for the first two seasons plus 2002, the only season in which the Mystics have won a playoff series to date) with the other three removed to make way for a banner honoring Final Four appearances by the Georgetown Hoyas.

The Washington City Paper had called them "embarrassing";[61] a 2005 article by Todd Wright commented, "It's time to lose those Mystics attendance banners hanging from the rafters";[62] the Sports Road Trip website mocked the banners by stating "Oh... Mystics... WNBA 'attendance champions' in '98 and '99. Wheeeee!"[63]

When The Washington Post writer Jon Gallo was asked about the banners, he stated, "The attendance banners were largely achieved because the Mystics gave away approximately 30% of their tickets before Sheila Johnson took over the team. If the Mystics had made everyone pay for a ticket, then they would not have had the best attendance in the league."[64]

In the 2009 season, the Mystics once again led the WNBA in attendance at 11,338 per game;[65] however, in an entry on his blog earlier that season, Ted Leonsis, whose Lincoln Holdings owns the Mystics, had promised that there will be no attendance banner for 2009 should the Mystics conclude the season with the attendance lead.[66]

On Leonsis' authorization, the final remaining attendance banners were removed from the Verizon Center rafters in 2010.[67]

NBA "Rain Delay" Game[edit]

On January 11, 2014, an NBA game at the Verizon Center between the Washington Wizards and the Houston Rockets was delayed a total of 57 minutes because a leak in the roof had made its way to center court. The first delay was 35 minutes, and occurred early in the second quarter, and the second delay was 22 minutes, and occurred at the beginning of the second half.[68] Verizon Center staff hung a tarp from the ceiling to temporarily stop the leak from getting onto the court.[69] The game was 3 hours and 18 minutes long, including stoppages.[68]


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