The groundbreaking for the MCI Center (MCI was the title sponsor at the time) was scheduled for October 1995 with the Capital's home opener October 1997. It is to be located above the Gallery Place Metro Station near the National Mall. The Center will seat 19,700 for hockey and 18,756 for basketball. It will include 110 luxuary suites on three levels, 70,000 square feet on themed restaurants, themed retail and a sports meseum. Square footage will be 836,840. The estimated cost is $260 million. Architect: Ellerbe Becket, Kansas City, MO
Bullets/Capitals Announce A New Arena
At a news conference on 7 June 1995, Abe Pollin, the owner of the Washington Bullets and Capitals, announced details of the new downtown arena that he hopes to open in the fall of 1997. The new state-of-the-art arena will be called MCI Center. Fans at the new arena will be able to select replay angles of on-court plays; ideally, each seat will have its own display for this feature. Details are currently sketchy, but read the June 1995 issue of "Sports Illustrated" to get a feel for the types of services that will be offered in the future.
The new arena will be built near DC's Chinatown, at the Chinatown/Gallery Place Metro stop. The National Museum of American Art is across 7th Street, NW from the proposed location. The current Washington Convention Center is three blocks away. The MCI Center will be bordered on three sides (west, south, and east) by 7th Street, NW; F Street, NW; and 6th Street, NW. The 600 block of G Street, NW will probably be closed (because the MCI Center will be built across it).
Abe Pollin will raise the financing for the construction of the arena (estimated to be around $175 million). The DC government is going to have to spend money on improving surrounding facilities (not sure of the dollar amount); probably includes street improvements, maybe some parking, an undergroung connection to the Metro stop? This is unclear at the moment.
There are some concerns about the space required for the MCI Center. The sidewalks on the three sides close to the street may not be wide enough for anticipated pedestrian traffic before and after games. (wtf note: This is typical for most urban arenas and not a new problem. Pedestrians will spill into the street, no matter how wide the sidewalks are. Police will need to adjust for this concern.)
Ground for the MCI Center is scheduled to be broken in October 18, 1995.
Architectural Splendor Would Propel D.C. Arena Beyond Thrill of Victory
by Roger K. Lewis
Reprinted without permission, from "The Washington Post" Saturday, August 5, 1995, p. E8-E9.
"It's the wrong site for an arena, so who cares about its architecture, it's just an exercise in decorating a box!"
That was one of the attitudes expressed during a recent Historic Preservation Review Board hearing on the proposed D.C. arena, now dubbed the MCI Arena (sic.). The remark was indicative of a belief shared by no small number of citizens and political officials. The "architecture" of proposed projects often carries little or no weight in public debates, as if architectural quality were inconsequential.
Indeed, matters of great aesthetic concern to architects--especially the composition of a proposed building's mass and facades--frequently are pre-empted by discourse focused solely on functional performance, regulatory conformity, traffic and parking impact, budgets and financing and historic preservation.
While these are vital, indispensable considerations, they should not exclude consideration of architectural aspirations that are primarily visual and symbolic in nature.
Consider what happens when architecture isn't on the agenda: the Washington Convention Center and Techworld come to mind.
Architecture does matter and matters a lot, especially in the life of cities. It should never be dismissed as incidental to the evaluation of a proposed project's merits or desirability. Nor should it be sidestepped because some people believe design to be merely a question of taste and aesthetic preference, a matter not susceptible to regulation or negotiation.
The MCI Arena (sic.), to be build in a site in Chinatown over the Gallery Place Metro station, is a good example of how treatment of the "box"--its public architectural visage--will be critical to the ultimate quality of the neighborhood and city in which it sits. It also exemplifies how a rigorous process of design and design review can contribute to the steady improvement of a project's architectural imagery.
Being designed for Abe Pollin's sports organization by a consortium of three architectural firms--Ellerbe Becket, Florance Eichbaum Esocoff King, and Devrouax & Purnell--known as D.C. Arena Associates, the project is advancing through multiple review processes even as its form and financing continue to evolve. Just a couple weeks ago, shortly after the preservation review board hearing, the latest architectural concept for the arena received the blessing of the Commission of Fine Arts.
Since design began, several cycles of transformation and refinement have made the arena's facades better and better, the result of a number of specific design philosophies and strategies adopted by the architects and their client.
The designers fortunately abandoned initial inclinations toward producing another Washington neoclassical mutant, an arena derivative of the architectural language of the Federal Triangle or the National Portrait Gallery, its immediate neighbor on the west side of Seventh Street. If pursued, a historical, classical-cladding approach probably would have led to an overscaled, disproportionate edifice sitting ponderously on its site and embodying little of the arena's intrinsic vitality, character and internal complexity.
Recognizing the diversity of the neighborhood and surrounding
streets--each of the four sides of the site is unique--the design team appropriately has chosen to compose a building that responds circumstantially to varying contextual conditions around its perimeter. For example, the south elevation, facing F Street, is symmetrical, but the east and west elevations, facing Sixth and Seventh streets respectively, are dynamically asymmetrical. And the north elevation, facing Chinatown, has a strongly defined center, yet is not symmetrical.
Similarly, the architects have allowed the building's internal context, the arena's special interior spaces and functions, to sponsor dramatic articulations of the exterior. Contrasting planes of closed and open surface--opaque masonry walls interplaying with transparent walls of glass--will animate the facades of this block-long box both day and night.
To further reduce the scale of the box, the building mass is layered from inside to outside. This strategy avoids flat, uninterrupted wall planes stretching monotonously for hundreds of feet adjacent to surrounding sidewalks. For example, part of the arena's curvilinear bowl will be visible as a glassy, convex volume framed by screening columns and solid masonry walls along the east and west facades.
The block-long southern concourse--full of shops, eateries and, during events, thousands of people--will be visible through walls of glass subdivided by a systematized patter of horizontal and vertical mullions. In front of the glazed concourse wall sits a soaring portico, classically allusive but modern in structure and detailing, framing the arena's main entrance facing F Street.
At the arena's northwest corner, another major entrance is signaled, not by a lofty portico but by a great, gridded window wrapping around the building's corner and facing both west and north. Below this window and hovering above the sidewalk and ground floor entrances is a undulating canopy inspired by traditional Chinese architecture, an attempt to acknowledge the arena's relationship to Chinatown. The canopy shelters
doors leading to both the arena and the Gallery Place Metro station. Canopy details still are being studied and refined.
Responding to the east and west approach vistas along G Street, which must be closed between Sixth and Seventh streets to accommodate the arena, the design team has proposed a tower-like marquee surmounted by a great lantern. This punctuating vertical element would constructively meet three worthwhile goals: to identify the arena and display event information; to interrupt visually the horizontal composition of the east and west facades as seen looking north or south along Sixth and Seventh streets and to provide a visual landmark, visible from a distance, aligned with G Street on both sides of the arena.
To lower the arena's perceived height and bulk, the architects have set back the attic level and vaulted the roof from the dominant street walls. Consequently, the height of the arena's primary cornice line will be comparable to that of nearby institutional and commercial buildings. Moreover, from many vantage points, the arched volume of the roof will not be visible at all.
Through use of a limited but varied palette of materials--limestone and brick, metal and, most important, generous helpings of glass--the arena has become increasingly less monolithic and more transparent. Invitingly porous and better connected physically and psychologically to the streetscape, it promises to be the destination that the city hopes it will be, thanks in no small measure to its architectural composition.
The architectural bottom line is that, happily, the arena's expressive form derives much of its inspiration from local urban circumstances, from unique demands and opportunities inherent in its program and from forthright use of modern construction materials and techniques.
The arena site is less than perfect. But if given the choice, I would choose an admirable work of urban architecture on an imperfect site rather than a mediocre work of architecture on a presumably less problematic site.
Roger K. Lewis is a professor of architecture at the University of
Maryland and a practicing architect.
Proposed Design of the MCI Center
Paraphrased without permission, from "The Washington Post" Thursday, September 28, 1995, by Stephen C. Fehr and Maryann Haggerty. p. B1, B5.
A model of the proposed $260 million MCI Center has been revealed. The MCI Center will be open from 9 am to 11 pm, all year, and will include shops, restaurants, a sports museum, pedestrian terraces, and a five-level arena for basketball, hockey and concerts. Light will supposedly spill out of its windows like a beacon in Washington, DC.
Groundbreaking for the 19,700 seat arena is scheduled for October 18, 1995. It is to be finished by the fall 1997. Entrace into the arena will be through two main points: in the middle of F Street or the northwest corner of 7th and G Streets, near Chinatown. The canopy over the entrance nearest Chinatown will be in a curved, dragon wall style characteristic in the neighborhood. Around the perimeter of the arena will be four levels of shops and restaurants, some of which will face the street. All of the sidewalks around the building will use red pavers in a basket weave pattern. The oval arena inside will be oriented east/west. The entrance for the Gallery Place Metro station, currently at 7th and G Streets, will be moved to 7th and F Streets.
Approximately 60 percent of the seats will be on the lower concourse, reserved for season ticket holders. On each side of the next level will be the private suites. The third level will be the club section, followed by a level of corporate suites ringing the building. The top level of seats will be the cheapest seats.
Seats will be wider and plusher than at US Air Arena (wtf note: yes! from the 6'6" season ticket holder), and some seatbacks will be equipped with TV monitors that will allow fans to call up instant replays or participate in surveys. According to an architect who is working on the MCI Center's interior, and also worked on Cleveland's Gund Arena, the MCI Center will present a package that hasn't been seen anywhere else.
|Events:||Approximately 200 annually, including Washington Wizards Basketball, Washington Capitals Hockey, and a wide variety of concerts, family shows and other cultural and entertainment events|
||The MCI National Sports Gallery: An interactive sports museum showcasing some of the nation's most significant sports memorabilia. Home of the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame.
Discovery Channel: Destination D.C.: An entertaining and educational 25,000 square foot, three-story super store taking visitors on an imaginary journey throughout the world. Visit Discovery Channel online...
Velocity Grill: An upscale sports-themed restaurant overlooking the Wizards practice court. Patrons will enjoy fine cuisine designed to appeal to a variety of tastes and budgets.
Hours of Operation:
9:00 am - 11:00 pm, 365 days a year (expected)
|Metro Access:||All metro lines serviced by either Gallery Place, Archives, Judiciary Square, or Metro Center|
|Parking:||Approximately 10,000 parking spaces located within 10 block radius of arena
THE ULTIMATE SPORTS ROAD TRIP
By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
December 31, 2000
|Verizon Center Ranking by USRT|
|Fan Support|| 4|
|Concourses/Fan Comfort|| 7|
|Bonus: Chinese Marquee|| 3|
|Bonus: Subway Station in Building|| 2|
|Bonus: USRT Assist and Tour|| 2|
|Total Score|| 63.5|
January 1, 2001
May 14, 2005 - The MCI Center in Washington DC opened in December of 1997, and is the home to the NBA
Wizards, the NHL Capitals, the WNBA Mystics, college basketball's Georgetown Hoyas, and
their newest team, the Washington Power of the National Lacrosse League. The arena is
located right in the heart of downtown Washington, and is just blocks away from the Capitol,
the White House, and most of our national historic treasures as well as federal buildings.
(Interesting thought - here in DC they found a suitable downtown location that did not
conflict or clash with our national historic monuments and buildings, yet in Ottawa there
seemed to be a problem with the idea of building an NHL venue so close to Parliament Hill,
therefore they opted to build the Corel Centre in the middle of a corn field miles away from
The arena is located right adjacent to the Chinatown district, which gives this venue a
unique setting among the NBA/NHL arenas around the US and Canada. The MCI Center's
main marquee is shown in both English and Chinese, giving this building its distinctive
The immediate neighborhood surrounding the arena is attractive and vibrant, and from
what we were told this venue has been the nucleus for major redevelopment of the area.
There were several ongoing construction projects in the adjacent area for new offices and
condominiums, and there was a great selection of restaurants in the neighborhood. (We
had a terrific meal at the Capitol Brewery on New Year's Eve, and the next day we had lunch
at the Valhalla for sports enthusiasts such as ourselves, that being the ESPN Zone. Both
were easy walking distance to the MCI Center).
The building itself lacks any sort of plazas or wide open public spaces on the outside. It is
built from curb to curb, but we must say that access to the building is easy, with a Metro
subway station right at the arena, and ample parking underneath the building and many
nearby surface lots and onstreet parking. The other thing this building lacks is any sort of
main entrance or dramatic architectural signature. You walk through the main door and
through a small lobby and you are immediately in the concourse. The arena also houses
several unique retail entities - a Discovery Channel store, a steak restaurant, a sports bar
and disco, Modell's team store which also sells generic sports merchandise, and last but
not least the MCI Sports Gallery and Hall of Fame, a two story exhibit area with a wide range
of sports memorabilia and interactive games, and they are open throughout the week.
The concourses themselves are bright, spacious and modern - the color motif is fire engine
red and sunshine yellow, and on the lower concourse there are many windows to the
outside, with ample natural light. US Airways sponsors large murals of the artists and
events that have happened in the building, and they are very attractively displayed
throughout the 100 level concourse. (Some of our favorites being Shania Twain, Placido
Domingo and Hulk Hogan!)
There are two levels of suites - the lower suites are on the sidelines above the 100 level
seats, and then there is a separate suite level above the club seats. The club seats are
located on the second level on each sideline only, and in the one end zone is a spacious
Harbor Club type restaurant, with two tiers of tables offering a full view of the playing
surface. A sumptuous buffet and light fare is offered, and there is also a full service bar
also overlooking the bowl. The club level is plushly carpeted in the red/yellow/purple motif.
By the way, all club seats were sold on a 4 year contract basis, so no single game tickets are
available at this time.
All of the seats are colored purple, and the main scoreboard has four sides with video
screens and basic score information. Hanging from the ceiling in each corner are 4 dot
matrix boards showing stats and other information. Recently the Caps/Wizards installed the
modern new LED digital display boards on the edge of the club level balconies. While these
boards are not as elaborate as those in Columbus or Minnesota, they nevertheless
represent the state of the art technology in presenting advertisements and special effects.
The Wizards did hardly anything more than scroll ads, but at the Caps game they regularly
presented special effects and led cheers with the boards... nicely done!
The out-of-town scoreboard at the Wizards game was a mish-mosh of every sport
imaginable - NFL, College bowl games, NHL and NBA. While we appreciated the information,
it should have been better organized. The Capitals only display other NHL scores.
To get the good stuff you have to get to the club level - hot wings, caesar salads,
strombolis and specialty sandwiches that looked awesome. The regular concessions in the
arena were just ordinary.
Excellent job done here as only the most meaningful of banners hang here, with one small
exception descibed later in this paragraph. You will see Division, Conference and League
Championship banners (including Georgetown's '84 NCAA Title) only along with the Caps
and the Wizards each having three retired numbers. What we liked about the banners the
Caps had was that their banners not only had the names and numbers, but also face shots
of the players. The only other place we have seen this done is at the Air Canada Centre in
Toronto. Oh... Mystics... WNBA "attendance champions" in '98 and '99. "Wheeeeeeee!"
We got some really shabby treatment from the sad and pathetic Wizards, so to them we say
"not to worry, we will never grace your doorstep again". Overall we liked the building,
although there was nothing to make the experience itself a spectacular one. What these
two teams desperately need are packed houses, fans painting their faces and going nuts
for their teams, and spontaneous electricity and enthusiasm for their beloved Wizards and
Capitals. At this time it just ain't happening in DC.
January 6, 2006
MCI CENTER TO BE RENAMED VERIZON CENTER
Verizon Communications' merger with MCI is now complete;
Renaming will occur at a date to be determined in first quarter of 2006
Washington, D.C. - Verizon Communications officially announced today the
closing of their merger with MCI. As part of that merger, MCI Center, the
20,000-seat sports and entertainment facility in Washington, D.C. bearing
the name of MCI Communications, will be renamed Verizon Center. The actual
date that the venue will switch names is still to be determined, but will
occur during the first quarter of 2006. The new logos and graphic branding
of the DC venue will also take place within the first quarter of this year.
"We will say a fond farewell to the MCI Center name and welcome 'Verizon
Center'," said Washington Sports and Entertainment President Susan O'Malley.
"We have enjoyed our affiliation with MCI, but we welcome Verizon as our new
corporate partner and namesake."
MCI Center is the home of the NBA's Washington Wizards, the NHL's Washington
Capitals, the WNBA's Washington Mystics and the Georgetown Hoyas men's
basketball team. Recently celebrating its eight year anniversary and almost
20 million in attendance as MCI Center, the venue boasts an annual average
of 220 events ranging from basketball to hockey to concerts to family shows
to world-class tournaments and trade shows. For 2005, MCI Center was ranked
ninth worldwide among venues according to Billboard magazine thus continuing
its tradition of being a top 10 sports and entertainment venue year after
year. As MCI Center changes to Verizon Center, the tradition is set to
D.C. DELAYS HEARING ON VERIZON CENTER SIGNAGE
January 26, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures
Washington, D.C. - A D.C. Council hearing on a bill to permit the signs – once described as
"likely to wow visitors and infuriate neighbors" – was indefinitely postponed by Yvette M. Alexander, whose Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs is handling the bill.
Alexander said in an interview with the Washington Post that the hearing was delayed at the request of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the Verizon-owning company controlled by owner Ted Leonsis, so it could do "further community outreach."
Randall Boe, executive vice president of Monumental, confirmed that the company wanted more time to share its rejiggered plans with neighborhood groups.
"We shared with them our proposal; we answered questions; we invited comments," Boe said. "One of the comments we got was, ‘Are you willing to work with an architect or designer to make sure this fits in with the neighborhood?' We've done that."
The new plans call for fewer signs that initially contemplated, Boe said - two digital animated signs would replace larger vinyl signs now hanging on the northwest face of the arena; another sign would wrap around the arena's fourth floor.. The wraparound signs would use a "mesh" system that allow light into the Monumental executive suite on that floor.
Renderings, Boe said, would be shared with community groups in the coming days.
The Washington Business Journal first described Monumental's plans in October, which at the time included as many as nine signs on the otherwise bare arena walls. The bill's language says the signs could include "banners, digital displays, digital screens, digital video monitors, animated signs for commercial establishments located within the building, static canvas displays, projectors for projecting static and moving images onto the Verizon Center, interactive kiosks, and images projected onto the faćade of the Verizon Center."