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Official Review by Jason Bullock, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
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.
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".
If you're looking for it, the Verizon Center has it. You can get all the typical food you would get at any other arena and more. In the mood for pizza? Papa John's has got you covered at $8.50 for a personal pizza. Chili sound good? Hard Times Cafe has chili dogs, chili nachos, chili mac and well, a bowl of chili. Sliders and cheesesteaks are available at the Greene Turtle stand. If you leave the arena hungry, it's your own fault.
Coca-Cola products are served $5.75 for a large and $4.50 for a regular. Dasani, Powerade and Iced Tea are all available bottled 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 main concourse that always has a line. Most stands take all major credit cards, but some of the standalone vendors are cash only.
The Mystics really try to create a kid-friendly atmosphere. In the main concourse, you could find face painting, balloon animals and poster making. During stops in play, most of the activities involved children out on the court competing for various prizes. Even the dance team, Mystics Mayhem, is made up of youngsters from age 7 to 13. Not only was it entertaining for the kids in the crowd, the adults seemed just as into what was going on in between play. The mascot, Pax the Panda, was out and about throughout the game and even out on the court dancing with the Mayhem.
While the arena was not full by any means, there was a pretty good buzz through the crowd throughout the game, even when the home team was facing a large deficit. As a occasional follower of the WNBA, it was easy to get caught up in the excitement of the crowd.
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.
Despite having only three winning seasons in their history, the Mystics continually draw a crowd above the WNBA average. The fans I interacted with at the game I attended were knowledgeable and into the game from start to finish. I estimate 80% of the fans that attended the game stayed to the end and were treated to an OT thriller in which the home team was triumphant. These fans deserve a winner and I look forward to seeing the Mystics deliver in the near future.
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 St. between 6th and 7th St. There are two garages there - 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.
Ticket prices range from $17 (loge seats located behind the baskets) to $300 (next to the player's bench). While considerably less expensive than their male counterparts, a family of 4 that wants to sit between the baskets can expect to spend $150-$200 minimum for tickets.
Combine that with food and parking/transportation, family night will cost about $250. For a team that has yet to produce a consistent winner, there is a some work to do in this category.
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 it's advantages and endless stuff to do is one of them.
Check out The Green Turtle, a chain sports bar in the area that serves good food and cold beer. You can access from either inside or outside the arena.
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.
The Verizon Center has been the hub of redevelopment in this area of Washington D.C. and is a great place to catch a game involving any of the teams that call the arena home.
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701 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
705 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
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