The Verizon Center (formerly MCI Center until March 5, 2006) is a sports and entertainment arena in Washington, D.C., USA, named after telecommunications sponsor Verizon Communications. The arena has been nicknamed the "Phone Booth" because of its association with telecommunications companies. The arena is home to the Washington Capitals of the NHL, Washington Wizards of the NBA, Georgetown University men's basketball, and Washington Mystics of the WNBA. It is located in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington.
The arena opened as the MCI Center on December 2, 1997 in downtown Washington's Chinatown. When Verizon bought out MCI in 2006, the arena's name was changed accordingly. The building replaced the US Air Arena, which was located on the Capital Beltway in Landover, Maryland. Some complained that the building's construction, by closing off a block of G St, corrupted the historic L'Enfant layout of the Washington city streets.
Others were concerned it would lead to the displacement of Chinese businesses in Chinatown. While largely considered a commercial success, the Verizon Center was the catalyst that led to gentrification of Washington's Chinatown, with rent increases after construction of the Arena forcing many small Chinese businesses to close. On the other hand, the Arena is not only a popular venue for sports and concerts, but helped to turned "Gallery Place/Chinatown" neighborhood into one of the prime sites for commercial development in Washington. Virtually all Chinese residents in the D.C. area already live in the suburbs, and displacement that occurred over the years has been mostly commercial rather than residential.
2008 marks the first year that the Wizards and Capitals both played playoff games in the building in the same calendar year. Furthermore in D.C. sports lore 2008 also marks the first time the Wizards, Caps and Washington Redskins made the playoffs since 1988.
The Verizon Center is the home arena of the NHL's Washington Capitals, the NBA's Washington Wizards, the NCAA's Georgetown University Hoyas men's basketball team, and the WNBA's Washington Mystics. It was home to the Washington Power of the NLL from 2001–2002. It seats 20,173 for basketball and 18,277 for hockey.
As well as the home games of the Center's four sports tenants, the arena also hosts numerous special events, from concerts to Champions on Ice to the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus.
- Van Halen played on November 1 2007, on their Van Halen 2007–2008 Tour, their first tour with David Lee Roth in 22 years.
- World Championship Wrestling (WCW) Starrcade, 1997–2000
- NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, first and second rounds, 1998, 2002 & 2008
- NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, regionals, 2006
- World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Backlash, 2000
- NBA All-Star Game, 2001
- Janet Jackson All For You Tour three consecutive sold out concerts August 16, 2001, August 17, 2001 & August 18, 2001
- Britney Spears Dream Within a Dream Tour December 21, 2001 & July 10, 2002
- WNBA All-Star Game 2002, 2007
- 2003 ISU World Figure Skating Championships.
- World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) SummerSlam, 2005
- Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) men's basketball tournament, 2005
- BB&T Classic Basketball Tournament, annual event involving the University of Maryland and The George Washington University, among others. Held as a two-game showcase with the aforementioned schools as hosts.
- WWE 3-Hour Spectacular
- Mike Tyson vs. Kevin McBride, June 11, 2005. Tyson's final fight.
- Madonna "The Re-Invention Tour" June 13th and June 14th, 2004
- Shakira "Oral Fixation Tour" August 29, 2006
- Beyonce performed to a sold-out crowd during her "Beyonce Tour" August 9, 2007
- Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony "En Concierto Tour" October, 2007
- World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Cyber Sunday (2007), 2007
- Numerous Raw, SmackDown! and ECW Shows
- Dane Cook's "Rough Around the Edges", November 16, 2007
- The Spice Girls' Washington DC leg on their The Return of the Spice Girls World Tour, which took place on February 21, 2008
- World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Saturday Night's Main Event, 2008
- Coldplay, Viva la Vida Tour August 3, 2008, & October 31, 2008.
- Celine Dion's Taking Chances World Tour on September 8, 2008.
- Janet Jackson's Rock Witchu Tour on October 15, 2008.
- The Who 2008 Tour on November 3, 2008.
- AC/DC's Black Ice World Tour on November 15, 2008
- Sarah Brightman's Symphony concert on November 19, 2008.
- Tina Turner's Tina: Live in Concert Tour on November 23, 2008.
- Metallica will bring their World Magnetic Tour in January, 2009
- NCAA's Men's Frozen Four hockey championship, 2009
- Michelle Obama hosted [Kids' Inaugural: We are the Future] on January 19, 2009
- Britney Spears will bring The Circus Starring: Britney Spears Tour to the center on March 24, 2009
June 16, 1998 - Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings: The Caps lose 4–1 to the Red Wings to be swept four games to none in the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals. It was the first, and as yet still only, visit to the Stanley Cup Finals for the Caps.
February 21, 2003 - Washington Wizards vs. New Jersey Nets: Michael Jordan scores 43 points, becoming the All-Time oldest player, and only player, at age 40 or older to ever score 40 points in an NBA Game. The Wizards win 89–86.
April 5, 2003 - Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: Peter Bondra passes Mike Gartner as the Washington Capitals' career scoring leader. A tip-in ties the record early in the 3rd period and an empty net goal with 12 seconds left in the game sealed the record for Bondra. The Caps won 5–3.
April 30, 2005 - Washington Wizards vs. Chicago Bulls: The Wizards win their first playoff game in nearly 17 years with a 117–99 win over the Bulls. Oddly enough, it is the first NBA playoff game ever held within the District of Columbia (as a DC-area team, they previously played at USAir Arena in Landover, Maryland).
May 6, 2005 - Washington Wizards vs. Chicago Bulls: Jared Jeffries picked up a loose ball and went in for an uncontested tiebreaking dunk with 32 seconds left, thus giving the Washington Wizards a 94–91 win over the Bulls and taking the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series from them four games to two. The game marks the first playoff series victory for the Wizards in twenty three years.
January 21, 2006 - Georgetown Hoyas vs. Duke Blue Devils: The then-unranked Georgetown University Hoyas would defeat the then-undefeated #1 ranked Blue Devils 87–84, marking the first notable game of coach John Thompson III's career, as well as an important boost enroute to the NCAA tournament, where they would reach the Sweet Sixteen.
March 26, 2006 - George Mason Patriots vs. Connecticut Huskies: The Patriots, playing in front of a mostly partisan crowd due to George Mason University being just across the Potomac River from the arena, defeat the top seeded UConn Huskies to become only the second double-digit seed to reach the NCAA Final Four.
April 5, 2008 - Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers: The Capitals defeat the Panthers 3–1 to clinch the Southeast Division title and their first playoff berth in five years. The win marked an unprecedented comeback in NHL history, as the 2007–2008 Caps became the first team in NHL history to make the playoffs after rallying from 14th or 15th place at the season's midpoint . The game was the third home game of the week and all three were sellouts in which the entire Verizon Center crowd was wearing red .
The arena is owned by Washington Sports & Entertainment (which owns the Wizards and formerly owned the Capitals and Mystics), but on land leased from the city of Washington. At the end of the 30 year lease, the land is set to revert back to the ownership of the city, with the mayor of Washington to make mandatory biennial reviews of the city's continuing need for the arena.
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 radio and TV broadcasts, home and away.
The "Washington Mystics Attendance Champions" banners that hang at the Verizon Center have 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 think it is 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); today there are only three (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 being removed in 2007 to make way for a banner honoring Final Four appearances by the Georgetown Hoyas.
The Washington City Paper has 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." .
Ice quality issuesEdit
In December 2007, Capitals captain Chris Clark (ice hockey) 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?'" Caps owner Ted Leonsis addressed this criticism directly .
- The Verizon Center sits atop the Gallery Place-Chinatown station on the Red, Yellow, and Green lines of the Washington Metro.
- Chris Rock filmed a brief scene from his 2003 comedy Head of State in the building.
- The Spice Girls performed at the Verizon Center as part of their The Return of the Spice Girls Tour. It was their first appearance in Washington as a five piece.
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