In 1998, I was president and vice chairman of America Online and I bought season tickets and a suite for our company. I loved hockey and I would go to Caps games pretty often. It was the first year the arena was open, and the team went to the Stanley Cup finals! There was a moment when we were playing against the Boston Bruins and a Bruins player gave my young son, Zach, a stick that he took home and asked us to frame. After that moment, he became a hockey fan for life. The following year when the team went up for sale, I was approached, and then the rest is history.
Since that first moment, I’ve made it a priority for our organization to obsess about the fan experience – which is what encouraged me to invest in the building and the team in the first place. Since then, year after year, we’ve maximized the benefit to our fans and community through Capital One Arena. Some of my favorite moments at Capital One Arena over the years are:
- Attending a game with President Obama and then-Vice President Biden to see Georgetown beat Duke. That day marked the first time ever that the President, Vice President, and their wives came to a game together.
- The Caps winning the Stanley Cup and being here for the home games and being away and watching on T.V. 20,000 people in the arena and 50,000 people outside to celebrate winning. I mean even now I get goosebumps thinking about it. I kept thinking “Oh my gosh, look at that! We’ve taken over the city, it’s all red!” Meeting everyone here in the building, getting some pictures taken, getting on the open airbuses, driving around to the Lincoln Memorial, and then driving down Constitution Avenue on the parade route and seeing a million people all wearing red, just blocks from the arena, was breath-taking.
- Michael Jordan playing here for our first home game after 9/11 was very somber but very meaningful. By playing sports it signaled that we felt that we were safe, you can get back to normal.
We’ve had so many meaningful regular season games, playoff games, NCAA tournaments, and the biggest concerts with the biggest acts imaginable. But this isn’t just about hockey, basketball, NCAA games or concerts, this is an arena that I want to have used 24/7. It amazed me when I got into the business that it was standard practice to essentially lock fans out until 6 pm each night. And then the games would end, and then we would rush them back out into the city. I’ve long challenged our staff to develop ways to extend our use of the arena to be more available to our fans before and after games and events.
A major win in this category came with the debut of the Caesars Sportsbook. As the first ownership group to build a sportsbook in their arena, it was not so much about gaming and gambling, but also creating a pre and post event and fine dining destination that looks like a Wall Street trading center. It’s literally hundreds of televisions and people are watching different sports from all around the world. Additionally, now we’re building District E, an esports and entertainment center attached to the building on 7th street. Again, this is why we want people to come in early to have these different experiences and then come to the games or concerts. The number of investments that we make and will continue to make is all around enhancing how the customer feels about coming into downtown D.C.
The arena cost less than $200 million to build in its totality 25 years ago. We’ve owned the building, and now our ownership group for 12 years. We’ve spent nearly $160 million on renovations over the years and we’re continuing to invest. We have focused on technology, new scoreboards, signs, suites, and the sound system, and we are hoping to undergo major redevelopments soon that will change much of the external part of the building. The visions and plans for Capital One Arena 2.0 are major, but the fans, players, and employees deserve it.
It’s the people that have been here from Day 1, the people who worked at the old MCI Center and have made their way here. Every day with a smile on their face, they’re proud of what we’ve built together and proud to be a part of it. It’s a very organic and authentic feeling and it’s our duty to continue to feed that and it’s why we’ve become successful.
We have also made continued investments in the community around Capital One Arena, which it was built to serve. We now bring 3 million+ people a year through these turnstiles and generate 10-15% of the tax base for our city within a quarter of a mile radius. And we’ve long been the central place that brings people together not only from Virginia and Maryland, and Washington D.C. – but also so many global visitors – all with easy access Metro.
We want people to feel history can be made and that something great is going to happen at Capital One Arena. We hope people feel satisfied with the return on their financial investment but more importantly on their time. Additionally, the memories being made between moms and dads, brothers and sisters, and children and their friends are unmatched. When you’re in the arena and there are 20,000 people fellow fans among you and you’re seeing the players up close, and the music is rocking, and people are cheering… there is no experience like that. I’ll never take that for granted and we will continue to do everything we can to uplift the experience and make Monumental Sports, our teams, and Capital One Arena central to community entertainment and livelihood.
Cheers to 25 MORE years!