Leonsis pledges better arena with switch to Capital One
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.