Verizon Center
The Verizon Center (formerly MCI Center) is a sports and entertainment arena in Washington, D.C., USA, named after telecommunications sponsor Verizon Communications, and has been nicknamed the " Phone Booth" because of its association with telecommunications companies. It is located in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington and sits atop the Gallery Place-Chinatown station on the Washington Metro. The arena is home to the Washington Wizards of the NBA, Washington Capitals of the NHL, Georgetown University men's basketball, and Washington Mystics of the WNBA, and was formerly home to the Washington Power of the NLL from 2001”“2002. It seats 20,173 for basketball and 18,398 for hockey. The arena is now owned by Monumental Sports & Entertainment, on land leased from the city of Washington. It was built with 100% private financing and originally owned by Abe Pollin from 1997-2009. Following Pollin's death in 2009, on June 10, 2010, the Pollin family sold the Verizon Center, the Wizards, and the Washington-Baltimore area Ticketmaster franchise to Monumental Sports & Entertainment, controlled by Ted Leonsis. The arena is largely considered a commercial and cultural success and is regarded as one of the driving catalyst's of the revitalization and gentrification of Washington's Chinatown neighborhood.

History
  • 1997: The arena opened as the MCI Center on December 2, 1997 in downtown Washington's Chinatown. The building replaced the US Air Arena, in Landover Maryland.
  • 2006: Verizon buys out MCI, the arena's name is changed accordingly.
  • 2007: The "first true indoor high-definition LED scoreboard" was installed at the Verizon Center.
  • 2010: The Verizon Center is one of only two U.S. sports arenas, along with Baseball's Tropicana Field, with 100 percent of its food vendors found to have major health and sanitary violations.


Fan fixtures
Two notable fan fixtures at Washington Capitals games at Verizon Center since the late '90s include Goat and The Horn Guy. "Goat," aka 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." "The Horn Guy," aka 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.

Notable events
  • 1998: Stanley Cup Finals games 3 (June 13) and 4 (June 16): The Washington Capitals are swept in four games by the Detroit Red Wings.
  • 2003, Feb 21: Michael Jordan scores 43 points, becoming the oldest player, and only player, at age 40 or older to score 40 points in an NBA game.
  • 2003, April 5: Peter Bondra passes Mike Gartner as the Washington Capitals' career scoring leader.
  • 2005, April 30: Washington Wizards vs. Chicago Bulls: The Wizards win their first playoff game in nearly 17 years with a 117”“99 win over the Bulls. It is the first NBA playoff game ever held within the District of Columbia, as the team previously played at USAir Arena in Landover, Md.
  • 2005, May 6: Wizards vs. Bulls: The Wizards win 94”“91 over the Bulls, winning the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, 4-2. The game marked the first playoff series victory for the Wizards in 23 years, and first playoff series win at the Verizon Center.
  • 2006, March 26: George Mason vs. Connecticut Huskies (NCAA men's Division I basketball Washington DC regional final): George Mason, playing in front of a mostly partisan crowd due to being located just across the Potomac River in Fairfax, Va., defeats top seeded UConn to become only the second double-digit seed to reach the NCAA Final Four.
  • 2008: Wizards and Capitals both play playoff games in the building in the same calendar year for the first time.


Other Notable Events
  • NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament first and second rounds: 1998, 2002, 2008 and 2011.
  • NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament regional finals: 2006.
  • WCW Starrcade 1997-2000.
  • NBA All-Star Game: 2001.
  • WNBA All-Star Game: 2002, 2007.
  • ISU World Figure Skating Championships: 2003.
  • ACC men's basketball tournament: 2005.
  • BB&T Classic Basketball Tournament: held annually.
  • Mike Tyson vs. Kevin McBride: June 11, 2005, Tyson's final fight.
  • WWE Cyber Sunday which took place on October 28, 2007
  • Kids' Inaugural: We are the Future: Jan. 19, 2009, hosted by first lady Michelle Obama
  • NCAA's Men's 2009 Frozen Four hockey championship: 2009
  • The Archdiocese of Washington Youth Rally and "Mass for Life": Every January, from 2004 to present.
  • The 2011 WWE Capitol Punishment which will take place on June 19, 2011.


Controversy

Health code violations
In August 2010 ESPN's Outside the lines reported that the Verizon center was one of only two major sports arenas in the U.S, and the only in the NBA or NHL, in which 100% of food vendors were found with at least one "critical or major" health code violation. Labeled the "dirtiest in NHL," violations included mice droppings in a least 10 different vending locations.

Role in Chinatown
When the arena opened there was concern that it would lead to the displacement of Chinese businesses and culture in the area that is the city's Chinatown. The surrounding area has indeed been dramatically gentrified, with a Chinese population remaining. Overall there have been higher prices for real estate, and more upscale residential and commercial development in the area, forcing some longtime Chinese out of Chinatown proper and into other parts of the city.

Ice quality issues
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 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?'" Caps owner Ted Leonsis addressed this criticism directly. The ice quality issue has been persistent both since the opening of Verizon Center and with the Capitals franchise in general.

"Attendance Champions" banners
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", a 2005 ESPN.com article by Todd Wright commented, "it's time to lose those Mystics attendance banners hanging from the rafters", the Sports Road Trip website mocked the banners by stating "Oh... Mystics... WNBA "attendance champions" in '98 and '99. Wheeeeeeee!". When 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 percent 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.". In the 2009 season, the Mystics once again led the WNBA in attendance at 11,338 per game; 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. On Leonsis' authorization, the final remaining attendance banners were removed from the Verizon Center rafters in 2010.

In film
  • Chris Rock filmed a brief scene from his 2003 comedy Head of State in the building.


Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
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