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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Capital One Arena – Washington Wizards

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14

Capital One Arena 601 F St NW Washington, DC 20004

Year Opened: 1997

Capacity: 20,282


G-Wiz, It’s Basketball in DC

Capital One Arena opened in 1997 as the home of the Washington Wizards, replacing the aging Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. However, the Wizards have thus far been unable to match the rise in popularity experienced by their co-tenant, the Washington Capitals. In addition to hosting these two teams, Capital One Arena plays host to Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball.

Food & Beverage 4

Capital One Arena has plenty of food and beverage offerings that are sure to satisfy any fan, and recently they have added some unique options as well. Main course options include Papa John’s pizza, cheeseburgers, and chicken tenders, and the last two come with fries. Other options include Italian sausage, hot dogs, and Chick-fil-A. In the past few years, arena ownership has added even more options beyond the standard ones, including tacos and donuts. Rita's Italian ice and frozen custard are available for fans with a sweet tooth.

Snacks include popcorn and hot pretzels. Thirsty fans can buy bottled water or soda, all Pepsi products. Beer and other alcohol are also available to fans of age.

The one bad part is that prices are expensive, as a meal and non-alcoholic beverage will easily cost over $20, and alcohol is extremely pricey as well.

Atmosphere 3

Capital One Arena’s main entrance is located on F Street NW in DC between 6th and 7th Streets, although there are several other entrances around the arena. Regardless of where you enter, you will be on the lower level, so fans sitting elsewhere will need to use stairs, an escalator, or an elevator. The 100 and 400 levels are traditional seats for the most part, while the 200 level is the club level and the 300 level is all luxury suites. All seats have a good view of the court, but the legroom and seat width get smaller and smaller the further up you go. There is a scoreboard above center court which also shows video and player stats, as well as smaller boards in the corners.

The Wizards do a decent job of keeping the fans engaged, with contests, cheerleaders, and a dance team, but oftentimes it seems like this distracts from the game itself. When the opposing team gets an easy rebound and uncontested layup off a missed free throw, and the crowd is going wild because they just won free chicken sandwiches, that’s not a good look. There is a mascot named G-Wiz who is a blue creature of some sort, but he mostly stays in the corner and only comes out occasionally.

One unique tradition is what happens after Wizards three pointers. The PA announcer will announce a "DC THREE" by whoever made the basket. Some fans find this enjoyable while others find it quite annoying by the end of the game.

Neighborhood 4

Capital One Arena is located in the Chinatown neighborhood of DC, though the area has gentrified significantly since the arena was built. The Greene Turtle is a popular sports bar located right around the corner. while the Gallery Place shopping mall is also right around the corner and includes numerous stores and a movie theater. Unfortunately, a lot of other businesses in the area have closed in recent years, between COVID and rising crime in the area. The neighborhood is still pretty safe despite public perception to the contrary, but you are in a major city so be aware of your surroundings.

Your best entertainment options will involve traveling a bit away from the arena, but not far. That’s because you’re in DC, the nation’s capital, and there’s a lot to do. The best part is that most of it’s free. Whether it’s checking out the many memorials and monuments on and around the National Mall, visiting one of the numerous museums, or simply taking in the historic sights, there’s something for everyone here. All government-run attractions are free to the public, though some private ones are not. Keep in mind, however, that if you wish to tour the Capitol or the White House, you will need to book that in advance.

Fans 2

At any given Wizards game, there will be thousands of empty seats, in stark contrast to what you’d get at a Capitals game at the same arena. Attendance has been on the decline for several years, in large part because the Wizards aren’t that good. Although officially the Wizards average between 16,000 and 17,000 fans per game, in terms of actual attendance it’s significantly less. A lot of tickets get put on the secondary market and not sold, or the ticket holders choose not to show up for other reasons. Those who do show up frequently arrive late or leave early, and most of them don’t get too involved in the game. There are moments where they can get loud, but it’s mostly when they have a chance to win free Chick-fil-A if the opposing player misses two “Fowl Shots” or for other similar promotions. The Wizards have a nice arena, and it’s disappointing that the fans don’t turn out in larger numbers.

Access 4

Capital One Arena is located just steps from the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station on the Red, Green, and Yellow lines. While this may seem like an amazing thing, the unfortunate reality is that Metro is difficult at the best of times and unusable at the worst. The last few years have seen numerous construction projects shut down several stations for weeks or even months at a time. Even if one of these isn’t ongoing, there is track work almost every weekend that increases headways on many lines and often closes several additional stations. The result is that there could be 24 minutes or more between trains, and that’s assuming everything functions properly, which it frequently doesn’t. The good news is that even people coming from outside the immediate DC area can take the Metro by parking at one of the suburban stations. Keep in mind that you will need to pay for parking with the same SmarTrip card you paid your fare with or you will be subject to a much higher rate at certain stations.

If you don’t want to chance it with Metro, you can drive to the game. Ample garage parking is available but is costly. The exact cost varies by the day and based on availability, but expect to pay at least $20 and probably much more. You can also take a rideshare such as Uber or Lyft.

Once you’re in the arena, the concourses are wide enough to allow for easy navigation. There can be long lines at concessions or restrooms during halftime, but if you leave as soon as the half ends, you should be back in your seat by the time the game resumes.

Return on Investment 3

The Wizards use a variable pricing format where the exact price you pay will depend on the opponent. Prices will generally start at between $20 and $25 depending on the opponent and go up to around $200 or more for lower level seats. However, you can often buy resale tickets for much less, especially for weeknight games and games against lesser opponents. Unfortunately, tickets are sold through Ticketmaster so you can expect massive fees tacked on. When you throw in the expensive concessions, attending a Wizards game can be deceptively expensive.

Extras 2

Be sure to check out the rafters as well, for retired numbers and the 1978 championship banner. One final star for the player introductions, an impressive display with spotlights in team colors and projected writing on the court.

Final Thoughts

Although the Wizards had high hopes when they moved downtown in 1997 into a shiny new arena, the experience has proven to be less than promised. Although a Wizards game is more affordable than it would be to see the Capitals at the same arena, you ultimately get what you pay for. The atmosphere in the arena is pretty dead and it is an average NBA arena at best.

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