Leon­sis pledges bet­ter arena with switch to Cap­i­tal One

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY TODD DYBAS

New signs, shorter lines and a bet­ter over­all ex­pe­ri­ence — that’s what the name change at the Ver­i­zon Cen­ter turned Cap­i­tal One Arena will mean for fans, Ted Leon­sis promised Wed­nes­day.

For the busi­ness­man who owns the build­ing and most of the teams that play in it, the deal rep­re­sents the pos­si­bil­ity of a health­ier bot­tom line.

The down­town home of Mr. Leon­sis’ pro­fes­sional fran­chises — the Cap­i­tals, Wizards, Mys­tics and Valor — as well as the Ge­orge­town Hoyas, has been re­named Cap­i­tal One Arena, start­ing im­me­di­ately. As part of the nam­ing rights deal, the arena, pre­vi­ously the Ver­i­zon Cen­ter, will un­dergo $40 mil­lion in up­grades.

Fur­ther de­tails of the agree­ment were not dis­closed, but Bloomberg re­ported the deal to be worth $100 mil­lion over 10 years. If ac­cu­rate, that would amount to a sig­nif­i­cant turn­about for Mr. Leon­sis, who has be­moaned the nam­ing rights deal he in­her­ited when he pur­chased the fa­cil­ity as one of the worst in all of sports.

At $10 mil­lion an­nu­ally, the deal would put the Wizards’ fa­cil­ity among the up­per ech­e­lon of NBA build­ings for nam­ing rights — on par, for ex­am­ple, with the Brook­lyn Nets, who re­ceive a re­ported $10 mil­lion a year for the Bar­clays Cen­ter, ac­cord­ing to Forbes. Red­skins owner Dan Sny­der gets $7.6 mil­lion an­nu­ally for FedEx Field.

The Cap­i­tal One Arena logo was un­veiled Wed­nes­day, but new signs and a mar­ket­ing cam­paign will come this fall.

“Cap­i­tal One shares our deep com­mit­ment to both eco­nomic and phil­an­thropic in­vest­ment in the larger Washington, D.C., com­mu­nity, and we look for­ward to work­ing closely with them,” Mr. Leon­sis said in a state­ment.

The change comes on the heels of the arena’s 20th an­niver­sary.

For­mer Wizards owner Abe Pollin opened the arena in 1997. It was first known as the MCI Cen­ter. The build­ing, which has also long served as one of the city’s premier con­cert sites, seats 20,500 and is lo­cated in Chi­na­town. The fa­cil­ity hosts more than 220 events an­nu­ally and is cred­ited with spark­ing a re­vi­tal­iza­tion of the sur­round­ing area with restau­rants and new busi­nesses.

Ver­i­zon was se­lected as the pre­vi­ous nam­ing rights part­ner in 2006.

Richard Fair­bank, Cap­i­tal One’s founder, chair­man and CEO, is a mi­nor­ity part­ner in Mr. Leon­sis’ Mon­u­men­tal Sports & En­ter­tain­ment, which owns the build­ing and the sports fran­chises. A Mon­u­men­tal of­fi­cial said Mr. Fair­bank re­cused him­self from the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

As part of the deal, Mon­u­men­tal will in­vest $40 mil­lion in up­grad­ing the Mon­u­men­tal 360 pro­gram, de­signed to an­a­lyze fan pref­er­ences, col­lect data and in­stall a point-of-sale sys­tem. Cap­i­tal One card­hold­ers will get dis­counts on food, mer­chan­dise and bev­er­ages once the point-of-sale sys­tem is in­stalled.

Ac­cord­ing to the press re­lease, re­duc­ing lines at the door is one of the goals of the point-of-sale sys­tem. Fans of­ten com­plained on so­cial me­dia about lines jut­ting out to­ward F Street when games had al­ready be­gun. The is­sues were preva­lent dur­ing 7 p.m. tipoffs for the Wizards.

On his blog, Mr. Leon­sis said the new sys­tem “is de­signed to cre­ate a swifter, smoother ex­pe­ri­ence in the arena.” The Washington Times’ Thom Loverro pre­vi­ously re­ported that Mr. Leon­sis was tar­get­ing a large in­ter­na­tional com­pany to take over the nam­ing right deal. In­stead, Mr. Leon­sis reached a deal with McLean-based Cap­i­tal One, which was al­ready a cor­po­rate spon­sor of the arena.

The nam­ing rights deal with Cap­i­tal One comes be­fore the Wizards’ first sea­son pay­ing the NBA’s luxury tax bill. The Wizards have three home­grown play­ers — John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter — signed to max­i­mum con­tracts. Wall and Porter signed their con­tracts this sum­mer. Beal signed last year. Mr. Leon­sis pre­vi­ously com­plained about the cost of op­er­at­ing the build­ing and the lim­ited rev­enue from the past nam­ing rights deal.

The deal with Cap­i­tal One was first re­ported last week. That caused fans to spec­u­late about “Cap Cen­tre,” as the Cap­i­tal Cen­tre in Lan­dover, Mary­land, was known from 1973 to 1999 be­fore be­ing de­mol­ished in 2002, as a nick­name for the arena that housed the Wizards and Cap­i­tals. How­ever, Cap­i­tal One Arena does not de­liver that op­por­tu­nity. The Ver­i­zon Cen­ter was re­ferred to as the “Phone Booth” on oc­ca­sion.

Mr. Leon­sis is pro­jected to pay off the arena’s mort­gage in six years. He has hinted at try­ing to find an­other arena when that hap­pens.


BANK ON IT: The Ver­i­zon Cen­ter in down­town D.C. is now called Cap­i­tal One Arena. Owner Ted Leon­sis an­nounced an in­vest­ment of $40 mil­lion.


Ex­pe­dit­ing en­try is one of the goals for Cap­i­tal One Arena. Fans have of­ten com­plained about lines jut­ting out to­ward F Street.

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