Washington DC's Verizon Center is home to the Georgetown University men's basketball program, the NHL's Capitals, NBA's Wizards, and the WNBA's Mystics. 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. Normally, I am not a fan of off campus venues, but for Verizon, I will make an exception.
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".
You absolutely cannot have a complaint here when it comes to the variety. There is everything you could ever ask for. All of your regular arena selections are here, nachos, pizza, dogs and popcorn. But the additional selections include hand pulled pork sandwiches, kosher, vegetarian and vegan options, salads and lighter sandwich choices, donuts, very good BBQ, crab cakes and fried calamari. Yes, I said fried calamari. The truly amazing part is that the arena accomplishes this without a full sit down restaurant inside (there is one on the club level, but that doesn't really count. If you're reading this, you probably don't have club seats); this, and a lot more are available completely via stands.
There are several full bars in the arena. The arena has nearly 40(!) different beers on tap, only two of which are $8. The rest are $7.50 or less.
Good atmosphere for an off campus venue outside. The student section is fabulous, more on that later. Washington has several college basketball teams, but Georgetown seems to be the city's team. It is well embraced and has deep roots and championship tradition.
Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of downtown arenas. My expectations are high for Verizon Center's neighborhood, and it does not disappoint. There is far too much to go into detail. You want American? Done, casual and upscale. You want burgers? Done, at Fuddruckers or Five Guys. You want seafood? Done, and done well, at Legal Sea Foods. Steakhouses, Indian, Thai, Chinese (duh, it's in Chinatown), BBQ, lighter fare, Irish pubs, even a Tapas Bar all here, within a block of the arena.
Here are three great spots:
Rocket Bar: Literally a hole in the wall, Rocket Bar has no food, but you can have California Tortilla delivered to you there, or bring your own food in. There are three full bars, lots of TV's, pool tables, foosball, darts, even shuffleboard and skee-ball! Wicked cool place.
RFD: Like beer? Then you'll love this place. There are over 30 beers on tap and THREE HUNDRED different varieties available in bottles. Even the menu is centered around beer, including desserts such as Bieramisu and the Fudge Stout Brownie.
Lucky Strike: Like to bowl? Even if you don't, you have to check out this place. Attached to, but not a part of Verizon Center, Lucky Strike is a bowling alley/bar/nightclub. When I walked in, I said, "Wow," and the doorman (under 21 only after 7pm) said, "We get that a lot." I'll bet they do. Full bar, full menu, full giant screen TV's above each lane, words fail to capture the greatness of this place. You have to see it to believe it.
There are more- just go.
College fans in general make games more fun to attend. The Georgetown student sections do not disappoint. Located directly behind each basket, they rarely sit down, and get the crowd revved up. The rest of the crowd arrived a little late for my taste, which would normally cost it a point, but the student section made up for that.
Just before introductions, the students chant "WE ARE"¦GEORGETOWN!" Original? Hardly. Awesome? Very. In addition, during introductions for the visiting team, they all turn their backs to the court and chant "HOYA SAXA" which is Greek-ish and Latin for "What Rocks!" (Greek translation is more accurately "hoia.")
There are rumors of a parking garage under the arena, but you need a special pass, so, good luck with that. There is parking available in garages, and it starts at $15, and no, you don't get anything special, like a picture with the President with that. Take public transit, it is right on the Metro line (Gallery Place-Chinatown stop), and adds to the fun.
Like with most of the new arenas, bathrooms are plentiful, with family changing rooms in select locations. They sparkle, along with the rest of the arena.
Really, if you don't have fun here, there is something wrong with you. Make it an all night affair, come for an early dinner, go see a game, then go bowling and dancing. For crying out loud, it is one block from the International Spy Museum. In fact, make it an all day AND night affair.
Because I can't give the neighborhood a 10, I'll make it up here. This joint oozes greatness for Hoyas games, or any thing, really, except Wizards games. There is just too much to do and talk about. There is a full spa "" A FULL SPA "" attached to the arena. It has a legit sports bar in The Greene Turtle. It even has a Dunkin Donuts, which, in case you didn't know, makes the world's best coffee. If you think that Starbucks is better, you are wrong. I dare you to do a blind taste test and tell me that it's better.
If you are in or around DC (Baltimore is close enough if you are there), make it your business to get down to the Verizon Center and see a Hoyas game. Spend a day downtown here. Leave your car and take public transit and relax and enjoy the ride. I promise you will not be disappointed. Unless there is something wrong with you.
Geoff Crawley is the Mid Atlantic Regional Correspondent and Voice of the Fan and is the host of a weekly podcast.
As stated before, the biggest problem with the Verizon Center is that it is, frankly, too big. Only the premium matchups against Syracuse or Duke actually fill the building. Often there are only 8k-10k in attendance. This is common amongst "small," private colleges playing in large downtown arenas.
But besides that, Hoyas games aren't bad. You can get in the door for $10, they sell beer during games, often you can sneak down to the lower bowl and sit in the corners, access is great with the arena located on top of the Gallery Place metro station (and you're an idiot if you decide to drive).
Scalping tickets is illegal in DC. You can hardly walk down the street with all the scalpers covering the sidewalks. There has to be 30 cops on the street for events. They don’t do anything about it just stand there talking to their buddies. What a waste of money to pay them. My daughters refuse to come to games because of these rude people. We have complained to the cops and they say they can’t control it. Move the scalpers two blocks down the street, their clients will find them.
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