Where were you on December 2nd, 1997? If you were in the Chinatown area of our nation’s capital, you may have been one of over 20,000 fans witnessing the first NBA game at the newly opened MCI Center. Then-President Bill Clinton and David Stern were there right along with you watching the Wizards cruise to victory over the Seattle Supersonics.
A lot has changed since then - Hillary is now the most powerful Clinton in D.C., the Sonics moved to Oklahoma and the MCI name has been replaced by Verizon. One thing that hasn’t changed is that this arena is still a great place to catch a game - oh, and David Stern is still commissioner (until 2014).
Wizards fans have had some exciting moments over the past 15 years, including hosting the 1999 NBA Draft and 2001 NBA All-Star Game, MIchael Jordan’s second NBA comeback in 2001 and hosting playoffs games for 3 consecutive years (2006-08) against the Lebron-led Cleveland Cavaliers. Unfortunately, success has been fleeting over the years and the Wizards have only had 4 winning seasons since they opened their arena, never exceeding 45 wins in any one campaign.
Hanging from the rafters of the Verizon Center, you will find the teams banners for their NBA Championship from 1978 and an Eastern Conference title from 1979. You will also find the retired jerseys of Earl Monroe, Gus Johnson, Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld represented hanging in the arena.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There is not a shortage of good eats at Verizon Center. There are so many options, I recommend you take a walk around the concourse before making your selection. It will also help you burn some of those calories that you are getting ready to consume.
The best places to eat by level? On the lower concourse, it's got to be the Hard Times Cafe stand at section 112. Here you will find chili dogs, chili mac, chili taters, chili bowl...well, you get the idea. On the club level, head over to section 229 and get something at the BBQ Pit. If you're looking for beef, turkey, pork or chicken - they've got you covered. On the upper concourse, you'll find the basics at most of the stands - hot dogs, tenders, pizza. If you're looking for the variety mentioned above, you would need to head back downstairs. If you're looking for a sit-down experience at the arena, The Greene Turtle is a great option and is located in the main concourse.
Coca-Cola products are served, with the pricing at $5.75 for a large and $4.50 for a regular. Dasani, Powerade and iced tea are all available in bottles for $4.50. You can purchase your domestic beers for $8 at almost any stand. Different stands carry different import/craft beers for $9, so take a stroll around the concourse if you are looking for a certain brand.
If you have room, funnel cake, cotton candy and soft-serve ice cream are all available for dessert. There is also a Dunkin' Donuts stand on the lower concourse that always has a line.
Most stands take all major credit cards, but some of the stand-alone vendors are cash-only.
I always enjoy the atmosphere at the Verizon Center. The best place to enter is on the 7th Street main entrance and getting in is typically pretty easy - security is present, but they move pretty quickly. Gates normally open one hour before tipoff and your tickets are scanned instead of ripped. This is also an efficient process, and I appreciate being able to keep my ticket stub intact.
If you are looking to sit behind the Wizards bench, section 101 is where you want to be. The home team comes out of the tunnel between sections 103 and 104. The team often throws game-worn items into the crowd as they leave the court after the game, so it's a good place to catch a souvenir.
The PA announcer and Big Tigger (the arena DJ) do a good job of keeping the crowd informed and entertained. The sound quality is good and is not too loud or overbearing on the ears. The large overhead scoreboard has an HD-quality picture and displays all of the typical stats that you would expect from an NBA scoreboard. There are also four smaller 'stat boards' located in each corner of the arena that shows detailed stats for each team throughout the game.
While the quality of play on the court sometimes leaves something to be desired, the Wizards do a good job of keeping the fans involved. G-Wiz (a furry blue...animal?) and G-Man (a blue superhero type) are the team mascots. You will typically see G-Wiz clowning with the kids and harassing the refs during timeouts and G-Man is into launching t-shirts and performing dunks off of trampolines. The dunking exhibition usually takes place in the 4th quarter. I've seen it many times over the years and never get tired of it. You will also be treated to the Wizards dancers a few times throughout the night, along with other promotional activities during TV timeouts.
Where to start? Located right in the heart of our nation's capital, the Verizon Center is easily accessible to a variety of options to do before and after the game. The arena sits right on the border of the city's Chinatown district and is blocks from the Smithsonian museums.
Attached to the Verizon Center is Gallery Place, which includes retail shops and restaurants. Clyde's is a area staple and a great place to meet before and after the game. Bar Louie, Sushi Go Round and Chipotle are other places that you will find crowds before, during and after events at the arena. Gallery Place also includes a bowling alley and a 14-screen movie theater.
The National Mall is blocks away and the Washington Monument is about a 25-minute walk. With the subway located right under the arena, you are minutes away from the many other attractions Washington, D.C. has to offer.
While patience is wearing thin with the team's performance in recent years, the fans that come to the games are still faithful to their Wizards and are hopeful that the return to prominence will come sooner than later. I find the fans that are seated in the lower bowl to be more knowledgeable of the game and the team, but also less forgiving of the team's play when it is not up to their expectations. Typically, you will find the arena about 50-60% full on game day, unless one of the powerhouses (the Heat or Lakers, for example) are in town.
There are no common chants or habits of the crowd, other than the occasional 'DE-FENSE' chants or other PA-induced phrases that you would hear at any other NBA arena. The crowd does get excited for the many promotions that go on throughout the game that include t-shirts and burritos being thrown into the crowd and the 'Dance Cam' (my favorite).
Your best option for getting to the game is to use Metro, the D.C. area subway system. The Gallery Place/Chinatown stop on the Red Line stops right at the arena. It can be crowded leaving after a well-attended game, but is the easiest and least expensive alternative to get to Verizon Center.
If you are comfortable driving in the city, there are plenty of parking garages around the immediate area of the arena. The easiest in and out and best value that I have found is on E Street between 6th and 7th Street There are two garages there, and both take credit as well as cash. The Verizon Center is a block and a half walk from both garages. Be mindful of other events going on in the city if you decide to drive - the cost of parking can range from $10-$35 based on other activities and demand.
Finding a street parking space can be an adventure and I would not recommend wasting your time and energy towards that. Stick with the Metro or garage parking and you will be fine.
Restrooms are plentiful along the concourse at Verizon Center and are typically clean and well-maintained.
This is a tough one here. Paying NBA ticket prices to see a non-contending team along with parking and concessions would not appear to be a wise investment of your entertainment dollar in today's economy. However, there are some opportunities to acquire Wizards tickets for a decent price that keeps it somewhat affordable and still leaves you feeling as though you are getting value for your money. The promotions department does a good job of offering ticket packages that include Family Fun Packs, All You Can Eat Seats and other deals - you can check the team's website for details. The secondary market is also an option, as a good selection of seats is typically available for a great price. I'm advocating well-known websites here, not the 'independent agents' that work outside the arena, as that is illegal in D.C.
I get excited anytime I can get up close to a major professional sport championship trophy The symbol of the Wizards (then the Bullets) 1978 championship is located in the lower concourse of the arena and worth taking a look.
Since I couldn't give the neighborhood more than 5, I will throw in an extra point here. Going to see a team play in a big city has its advantages and endless stuff to do is one of them.
There is a team store located in the main concourse where you can find gear for any of the teams that call the Verizon Center home. Go before or during the game, as the store is typically crowded after the game and lines are long.
I have been to around 75 games at the Verizon Center over the years and never had a bad experience. Sure, the team's play can be frustrating at times - OK, a lot of times - but hanging in there and being supportive is part of being a fan of the team. Playing in a great arena certainly doesn't hurt
Washington DC's Verizon Center is home to the NBA's Wizards, NHL's Capitals, WNBA's Mystics and Georgetown University men's basketball. Built in 1997, it was the start of the revitalization of DC's Chinatown. It is largely responsible for the area being one of the hottest spots in the city. It is a terrific venue for most events. For Wizards' basketball? Eh.
The Washington organization does a lot to make live games at the Verizon Center entertaining regardless of the fact that the Wizards haven't exactly been competitive for quite some time. G-Man and G-Wiz are great mascots for kids and there were a lot of fun cam games and other intermission games that kept everyone involved during dead ball intermissions, including the Burrito Toss. All in all I would definitely go back. Fans don't pack the center but there are a lot of kids who do go who seem to have an absolute blast. Having Washington DC as a backdrop doesn't hurt either.
Washington is a football town. Otherwise, fans are fickle here. And the Wizards haven't been a great team lately. On the plus side, unless a LeBron's in town, you can pick up tickets dirt cheap. And every once in a while, it's fun to just veg out in an arena that's 80% empty. But the novelty of that runs out quickly.
Lousy team in an apothetic environment? Well, at least you're in a decent building. The Verizon Center (formerly the MCI Center) is very pleasant, although not really unique. It's the fraternal twin of the Wachovia Center in Philly, only with more fickle fans and in a livelier neighborhood.
701 7th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
705 7th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
7th & H St NW
Washington, DC 20001
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