The MCI Center in Washington DC opened in December of 1997, and is the home to the NBA
Wizards, the NHL Capitals, the WNBA Mystics, college basketball's Georgetown Hoyas, and
their newest team, the Washington Power of the National Lacrosse League. The arena is
located right in the heart of downtown Washington, and is just blocks away from the Capitol,
the White House, and most of our national historic treasures as well as federal buildings.
(Interesting thought - here in DC they found a suitable downtown location that did not
conflict or clash with our national historic monuments and buildings, yet in Ottawa there
seemed to be a problem with the idea of building an NHL venue so close to Parliament Hill,
therefore they opted to build the Corel Centre in the middle of a corn field miles away from
the city!)

The arena is located right adjacent to the Chinatown district, which gives this venue a
unique setting among the NBA/NHL arenas around the US and Canada. The MCI Center's
main marquee is shown in both English and Chinese, giving this building its distinctive
signature.

The immediate neighborhood surrounding the arena is attractive and vibrant, and from
what we were told this venue has been the nucleus for major redevelopment of the area.
There were several ongoing construction projects in the adjacent area for new offices and
condominiums, and there was a great selection of restaurants in the neighborhood. (We
had a terrific meal at the Capitol Brewery on New Year's Eve, and the next day we had lunch
at the Valhalla for sports enthusiasts such as ourselves, that being the ESPN Zone. Both
were easy walking distance to the MCI Center).

The building itself lacks any sort of plazas or wide open public spaces on the outside. It is
built from curb to curb, but we must say that access to the building is easy, with a Metro
subway station right at the arena, and ample parking underneath the building and many
nearby surface lots and onstreet parking. The other thing this building lacks is any sort of
main entrance or dramatic architectural signature. You walk through the main door and
through a small lobby and you are immediately in the concourse. The arena also houses
several unique retail entities - a Discovery Channel store, a steak restaurant, a sports bar
and disco, Modell's team store which also sells generic sports merchandise, and last but
not least the MCI Sports Gallery and Hall of Fame, a two story exhibit area with a wide range
of sports memorabilia and interactive games, and they are open throughout the week.

The concourses themselves are bright, spacious and modern - the color motif is fire engine
red and sunshine yellow, and on the lower concourse there are many windows to the
outside, with ample natural light. US Airways sponsors large murals of the artists and
events that have happened in the building, and they are very attractively displayed
throughout the 100 level concourse. (Some of our favorites being Shania Twain, Placido
Domingo and Hulk Hogan!)

Premium seats
There are two levels of suites - the lower suites are on the sidelines above the 100 level
seats, and then there is a separate suite level above the club seats. The club seats are
located on the second level on each sideline only, and in the one end zone is a spacious
Harbour Club type restaurant, with two tiers of tables offering a full view of the playing
surface. A sumptuous buffet and light fare is offered, and there is also a full service bar
also overlooking the bowl. The club level is plushly carpeted in the red/yellow/purple motif.
By the way, all club seats were sold on a 4 year contract basis, so no single game tickets are
available at this time.

The bowl
All of the seats are colored purple, and the main scoreboard has four sides with video
screens and basic score information. Hanging from the ceiling in each corner are 4 dot
matrix boards showing stats and other information. Recently the Caps/Wizards installed the
modern new LED digital display boards on the edge of the club level balconies. While these
boards are not as elaborate as those in Columbus or Minnesota, they nevertheless
represent the state of the art technology in presenting advertisements and special effects.
The Wizards did hardly anything more than scroll ads, but at the Caps game they regularly
presented special effects and led cheers with the boards... nicely done!
The out-of-town scoreboard at the Wizards game was a mish-mosh of every sport
imaginable - NFL, College bowl games, NHL and NBA. While we appreciated the information,
it should have been better organized. The Capitals only display other NHL scores.

Concessions
To get the good stuff you have to get to  the club level - hot wings, caesar salads,
strombolis and specialty sandwiches that looked awesome. The regular concessions in the
arena were just ordinary.

Banners/retired numbers
Excellent job done here as only the most meaningful of banners hang here, with one small
exception descibed later in this paragraph. You will see Division, Conference and League
Championship banners (including Georgetown's '84 NCAA Title) only along with the Caps
and the Wizards each having three retired numbers. What we liked about the banners the
Caps had was that their banners not only had the names and numbers, but also face shots
of the players. The only other place we have seen this done is at the Air Canada Centre in
Toronto. Oh... Mystics... WNBA "attendance champions" in '98 and '99. "Wheeeeeeee!"

Summary
We got some really shabby treatment from the sad and pathetic Wizards, so to them we say
"not to worry, we will never grace your doorstep again". Overall we liked the building,
although there was nothing to make the experience itself a spectacular one. What these
two teams desperately need are packed houses, fans painting their faces and going nuts
for their teams, and spontaneous electricity and enthusiasm for their beloved Wizards and
Capitals. At this time it just ain't happening in DC.

SCORING: CAPITALS
Architecture 6
Food and team store 5
Scoreboard and electronics 6
Ushers 6
Fan support 4
Location and neighborhood 9.5
Banners and history 8
In game entertainment 5
Concourses/fan comfort 7
Bonus: Chinese marquee 3; Subway station in building 2; USRT assist and tour 2
TOTAL 63.5

SCORING: WIZARDS
Architecture 6
Food and team store 5
Scoreboard and electronics 6
Ushers 3
Fan support 4
Location and neighborhood 9.5
Banners and history 6
In game entertainment 5
Concourses/fan comfort 7
Bonus: Subway station in building 2; Chinese marquee 3; USRT media plug 2
TOTAL 58.5
Verizon Center
#64




MCI Center,
Washington DC  




December 31,
2000




Detroit Pistons at
Washington
Wizards



#65



January 1, 2001




Atlanta Thrashers at
Washington Capitals



return
visit



May 14,
2005



Miami
Heat
at
Washington
Wizards
(NBA
playoffs)


renamed
Verizon
Center
January, 2006