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Official Review by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Verizon Center in Washington, DC is home to several sports teams, most notably the NHL Capitals and the NBA Wizards, but also the Georgetown Hoyas and the WNBA Washington Mystics. Opened in 1997 at a cost of $260MM ($362MM in today’s dollars), the arena is connected to a shopping mall, and is close to the National Mall and Smithsonian museums. The size of the venue has fluctuated very slightly over the years, but it currently holds 20,356 for basketball.
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".
The Verizon Center offers a wide variety of food and beverage options on site, but a lot of the concessions stands are closed when the Mystics are playing, since the crowd is so much smaller during those events. The prices are on the high side for pro venues, probably due to being in Washington, DC.
The main stands sell chicken tenders with fries for $11, burgers for $9.50, kid's meals for $7, fries for $6.50, pretzels for $6, and hot dogs for $5.25. Smaller stands have popcorn for $7.50, soft-serve ice cream for $6.75, funnel cake for $6, cotton candy for $4.25, or Dunkin' Donuts for $2 each ($5 for a pack of Munchkins). You can also get Papa John's pizza, or Rita's Italian ice and custard.
Soda is $5.25 to $9, depending on size, and you can get it from the fountain or in bottles; bottled water is $4.50 to $6.50. The Dunkin' Donuts stand has all manner of coffees, teas, lattes, and even hot cocoa for $3 to $7. Several varieties of beer are available in cans for $9 to $13, and you can get it all over the arena.
While the arena is great, it isn't at full throttle during a Mystics game - it would be more enjoyable during a Capitals or Wizards game when all of the amenities are open. However, it is a lot less crowded when the Mystics are playing, so that is a plus.
The stadium features padded chairback seats (with plastic covers) in all areas, and though the crowd is not large, the venue does a good job with music and other entertainment, most notably the Mystics Mayhem dance team, made up of 7-to-13-year-olds, which performs frequently during breaks in the action. Many fans even get up and dance during the Mayhem's performances, which adds to the fun.
The seats in the upper decks are not sold for Mystics game, so all fans are in the lower level very close to the action, and most sit on the sides - very few sit behind the backboard. There are a couple of sections of floor seating as well, if you want to get really close.
Our nation's capital is always worth a visit - while traffic is heavy, there are plenty of attractions to see, including the National Mall, the Smithsonian, a myriad of other monuments and museums, and of course, plenty of bars and restaurants.
The Verizon Center is located downtown, and there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance. In fact, the arena is actually connected to its own shopping mall (Gallery Place), which has a movie theater, a bowling alley, plenty of shopping, and several restaurants - all literally a few hundred feet from the basketball court. Right outside of Gallery Place, there are additional restaurants, including fast food plus Legal Sea Foods, Clyde's Alley Bar, and the Greene Turtle, which is also connected to the arena. See a video of Gallery Place here:
With all the attractions and restaurants nearby, there is more than enough to do if you want to stay for a whole weekend, or even much longer.
There are plenty of hotels near the Verizon Center, but they are on the pricey side, due to the downtown location. You may prefer to stay outside the beltway to save some money, but then there will be more traffic to contend with as you drive back and forth.
On a good day the Mystics might only draw 2,500, which is only about one-eighth capacity, but the fans who do show up are really intense.
Many of the fans are really into the game, even a little on the angry side when things don't go the Mystics' way, with lots of yelling at the refs. A lot of the fans dance along when the Mayhem perform, and they really seem to enjoy the music, as well. The fans in the courtside seats are the most vocal, which is to be expected. The concourse is pretty deserted when the game is going on, as most fans only leave their seats during halftime.
Getting to the Verizon Center isn't difficult, since it is right downtown and near several major freeways, but parking nearby is very expensive, and traffic in the city can be hairy, so you may prefer to take the Metro.
The Metro is DC's subway system, and Gallery Place/Chinatown is a stop on the red line.
If you prefer to drive, there is a parking deck at Gallery Place, which connects to the Verizon Center, but it may cost over $30 ($12 for the first hour plus $7 for each additional hour, although you can get your parking validated if you do some shopping). There are other decks a few blocks away which aren't much better, although for night games you can park all night for $15 if you get there after 5 pm. Parking on the street is almost impossible so probably isn't worth the effort.
There are entrances on all sides of the venue, but make sure to bring your tickets with you, if you can - they only have tickets/will call on one side, and it may not be the side you park on.
The arena is very easy to move around during Mystics games because the concourses are so wide and there are so few people there. The bathrooms are also really nice - the men's rooms even have self-flushing urinals with a shelf over each one to hold your drink while you go.
Attending a Mystics game can be a very expensive proposition, especially if you have a large group - tickets are much more expensive than they should be, concessions are on the high end, and parking is pricey.
Tickets range from $25 (behind the net) to $70 (mid-court), but you could get away with buying the cheap seats and moving closer, since it won't be full. If you want to save money, the Metro is cheaper than parking, but will add time to your travel. A meal at the game will cost at least $15, and perhaps a lot more, so you may want to eat before you come.
One point for the shopping mall connected to the arena, and a second point for all of the attractions in DC. A third point for the Mayhem dance team, which is clearly a crowd favorite.
If you have never been to a WNBA game, the Verizon Center is a great place to see one, and Washington, DC is a fabulous place to visit. Just be prepared for the traffic and the cost.
Member Review by bullock0404 on Aug 27, 2012
Verizon Center, located in Washington D.C., has been home to the Washington Mystics for all 15 seasons of their existence. The arena opened in December, 1997 and also is home to the Washington Wizards (NBA), Washington Capitals (NHL) and Georgetown Hoyas (CBB). The Verizon Center was known as the MCI Center when it first opened until 2006 when Verizon purchased MCI. Due to the telecommunications connection, the arena is often referred to as “The Phone Booth.”
The arena averages about 220 events a year. Other notable events held at the Verizon Center include games 3 and 4 of the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals, the 2001 NBA All-Star Game, Mike Tyson’s final fight, NCAA basketball regional finals in 2006 and the NCAA Frozen Four in 2009. Concerts, wrestling and UFC have also been seen at Verizon.
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