Verizon Center

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"
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 Gallery Place
Red Line Red Line  Green Line Green Line Yellow Line Yellow Line
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
($384 million in 2016 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

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.

Ariana Grande brought her Honeymoon Tour to the arena on July 25, 2015, with an almost completely sold out show. On February 27, 2017, Ariana Grande is set to perform for her Dangerous Woman Tour at the arena.

Charity initiatives

Fan fixtures

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

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

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

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

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

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]


  1. Carrera, Katie (December 6, 2012). "Hershey Bears Play AHL Showcase at Verizon Center, Keeping Capitals Fans Entertained for One Night During NHL Lockout". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  2. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Verizon Center - Ellerbe Becket
  4. Bailey, W. Scott (December 6, 2002). "New S.A. Sports Firm Set to Play Pivotal Pole in Big NBA Projects". San Antonio Business Journal. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  5. "Verizon Center". Delon Hampton & Associates. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  6. "MCI Center". Retrieved September 29, 2011.
  7. Ted Leonsis close to securing Arena Football League team to play at Verizon Center, Jonathan O'Connell and Dan Steinberg, Washington Post, February 10, 2016
  8. Ted Leonsis to announce D.C. is getting an Arena Football League team, Scott Allen, The Washington Post, March 10, 2016
  9. Heath, Thomas (November 25, 2004). "On Hockey Nights, A Center of Inactivity". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  10. 1 2 "Name Change: MCI Center to be Verizon Center". ESPN. Associated Press. January 7, 2006. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  11. Hobson, Will. "Verizon still mulling whether to renew naming rights to Verizon Center". Washington Post.
  12. "Report: Verizon will not renew arena naming rights". WUSA9.
  13. Clabaugh, Jeff. "Monumental Sports & Entertainment teams with international airline in sponsorship deal". Washington Business Journal.
  14. "Verizon Center Shows off "First True Indoor HD LED Scoreboard"". Engadget. September 28, 2007. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  15. Nakamura, David (December 2, 2007). "Verizon Center Marks 10th Anniversary". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  16. "Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.". ColosseoEAS. Jan 31, 2014. Retrieved April 29, 2014.
  17. "1949-50 Washington Capitols Schedule and Results". Basketball Reference. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  18. Jackson, Lawrence (November 13, 2013). "ACC tournament will return to Verizon Center in 2016;". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  19. "2011 Youth Rally and Mass for Life". Archdiocese of Washington. January 24, 2011. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  20. "Verizon Center Hits a High Mark 30 Million in Attendance". Washington Wizards. March 13, 2010. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  21. Gaynor, Michael (February 23, 2012). "Quick, Do the Ice!". Washingtonian. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  22. Fetters, Ashley (March 15, 2013). "Pink thrills Verizon Center with Spectacle and Songs". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  23. Pacella, Megan. "Taylor Swift Red Tour Tickets Sell Out In Minutes". Web. Taste Of Country. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  24. Wetherbee, Brandon (February 11, 2013). "Beyoncé In D.C.: Pop Star Sells Out Verizon Center In Under A Minute". The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 28, 2013.
  25. Gustafson, Kyle (September 23, 2013). "Michael Buble Concert Review: Lots of Covers, Lots of Charm at Verizon Center". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
  26. Szadkowski, Joseph (November 19, 2013). "Sir Elton John at Washington's Verizon Center". The Washington Times. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
  27. Kogod, Sarah (April 13, 2011). "Community Benefits From Fan Appetites". NBC 4 Washington. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  28. Weissman, Nicole (February 17, 2012). "Caps Care Casino Night Makes an Impression". Capitals Outsider. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  29. "MSE Foundation and the Washington Capitals Raise More Than $100,000 for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Through 2012-13 Courage Caps Campaign". Washington Capitals. May 13, 2013. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
  30. "Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation Donates $10,000 to NHL's Thurgood Marshall College Fund". Washington Capitals. May 20, 2013. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  31. "Monumental Sports & Entertainment Staff Participate in Everybody Wins! DC Power Lunch Program". Washington Wizards. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  32. "2013 KaBOOM Playground Build". Washington Capitals. September 28, 2013. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
  33. "Washington Capitals Defenseman Nate Schmidt and Alumnus Paul Mulvey Participate in Playworks Washington, D.C., Hockey Extravaganza". Washington Capitals. October 21, 2013. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  34. "Capitals Raise Nearly $40,000 During Hockey Fights Cancer Night". Washington Capitals. October 21, 2013. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  35. "Caps partner with puppies for non-profit canine calendar". ABC 7 News. October 15, 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  36. "Wounded Warriors & Taps Families Attend Wizards Practice in Celebration of Courage Program and NBA Cares". Washington Wizards. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  37. "Give to Food 4 Families 2013". NBC 4 Washington. November 25, 2013. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  38. "Featured Video: Hoops For Youth Recap". Monumental Network. December 4, 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  39. "Featured Video: Family-to-Family Recap Campaign". Monumental Network. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
  40. "Featured Video: Corporate Engagement Award". Monumental Network. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  41. "Washington Capitals Braden Holtby Grants Wish of The Children's Wish Foundation of Canada Child". Washington Capitals. January 13, 2014. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  42. "MSE Foundation MLK Day Project". Monumental Network. January 22, 2014. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  53. Steinberg, Dan (December 14, 2006). ""I Was Blessed:" The Goat Story". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 27, 2010.
  54. Steinberg, Dan (October 19, 2006). "The Horn Man Blows". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 27, 2010.
  55. Yerdon, Joe (July 25, 2010). "ESPN Vendor Inspection: Caps' Verizon Center Dirtiest in NHL". NBC Sports. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  56. lavigne, Paula; Rovegno, Lindsay (July 25, 2010). "Vendor Inspection Reports". ESPN. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  57. 1 2 Lowman, Stephen (January 28, 2009). "The Shrinking of Chinatown". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 29, 2009.
  58. 1 2 3 Nakamura, David (July 1, 2011). "Wah Luck House Maintains Culture of Dying D.C. Chinatown". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 10, 2011.
  59. Leonsis, Ted (December 6, 2007). "Toughness". Ted's Take. Retrieved December 6, 2007.
  60. Steinberg, Dan (February 10, 2009). "The Caps and Bad Ice: A History". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 10, 2009.
  61. McKenna, Dave (June 30, 2006). "Cheap Seats: In With the Out: The Mystics Embrace Their Trustiest Fans". Washington City Paper. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  62. "Venue Visitation: 107 and Counting". ESPN Radio. July 26, 2005. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  63. "Washington Wizards". The Ultimate Sports Road Trip. Retrieved January 15, 2014.
  64. Gallo, Jon (August 18, 2006). "Washington Mystics". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 18, 2006.
  65. "WNBA Attendance: 09 Season Summary" (PDF). Womens Basketball Online. Retrieved January 15, 2014.
  66. Leonsis, Ted (July 13, 2009). "Mystics Lead WNBA in Attendance After First Report". Ted's Take. Retrieved January 15, 2014.
  67. Leonsis, Ted (May 7, 2010). "Washington Mystics Attendance Banners". Ted's Take. Retrieved January 15, 2014.
  68. 1 2 Dubroff, Rich (January 11, 2014). "Notebook: Rockets 114, Wizards 107". National Basketball Association. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  69. White, Joseph (January 11, 2014). "NBA Rain Delay as Rockets Top Wizards 114-107". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved January 15, 2014.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Verizon Center.
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