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  • Gregory Koch

Capital One Arena – Washington Capitals

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.57

Capital One Arena 601 F St NW Washington, DC 20004

Washington Capitals website

Capital One Arena website

Year Opened: 1997

Capacity: 18,506


Rocking The Red In DC

Capital One Arena opened in 1997 as the home of the Washington Capitals, replacing the aging Capital Centre in Landover. Since then, the Caps have experienced a dramatic rise in popularity and success thanks to players like Alex Ovechkin, culminating in their victory in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. In addition to hosting hockey, Capital One Arena serves several other functions as well, including playing host to the Washington Wizards and Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball.

Although there was a time not so long ago when this wasn’t the case, a Washington Capitals game at Capital One Arena is a memorable experience for any sports or hockey fan. Owner Ted Leonsis has done a fantastic job at growing the team and improving the arena atmosphere since buying the team in 1999, and his efforts have shown, both on and off the ice.

Food & Beverage 5

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 as well. Other choices include Italian sausage, hot dogs, and Chick-fil-A. In the past few years, arena ownership has added even more variety beyond the standard ones, including tacos, Japanese chicken sandwiches, and build-your-own nachos.

Snacks include bottomless popcorn and hot pretzels. Thirsty fans can buy bottled water or soda, all Pepsi products. Beer costs between $11 and $15 depending on the size and type. Capital One cardholders get a 10 percent discount on all concessions as part of the naming rights deal, but this does not come off automatically, you have to let them know.

The one bad part is that prices are expensive, as a meal and non-alcoholic beverage will easily cost over $20, and beer starts at $11 and just goes up.

Atmosphere 5

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 surface, but the legroom gets smaller and smaller the further up you go. Capital One Arena got several new video boards prior to this season, including a huge one over center ice that shows team stats and players on the ice below the giant screen. There are also smaller video boards in the corners which sometimes show the out of town scores as well.

Once you settle into your seat and get ready, you will get a feel for the atmosphere before the game even starts, as the Capitals put on a tremendous pregame program. Shortly before face-off, the lights go out and graphics are projected onto the ice while the PA system pumps up the crowd. These are pretty impressive graphic displays too, including high quality still images as well as videos of great Capitals’ moments of days gone by. Information on the Capitals’ players is also projected onto the ice as they are introduced. One more amusing pregame tradition is that they will often play a mocking song as the visiting team is introduced, one that is typically related to their nickname or something else about them, such as “Rubber Duckie” for the Anaheim Ducks or “Fish Flop” for the San Jose Sharks.

Once the game starts, the team does a good job of keeping fans engaged. “Rock the Red” is the Capitals’ mantra, and it seems to be working as fans can indeed be seen wearing the Capitals’ colors on game day. Late in games, the popular “Unleash the Fury” video will often appear on the video board during a break in action, encouraging fans to cheer on their team at that crucial moment. However, unlike some teams, the Capitals do not do this to the point where it seems artificial, and the fans do a good job at creating their own atmosphere as well. There is one mascot, an anthropomorphic eagle named Slapshot who roams the stands during the game and also makes periodic appearances on the ice.

Neighborhood 5

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, and b Penn Quarter (yes, they do stylize their name with a lowercase b at the beginning) is a somewhat more upscale option a few blocks away for fans looking for a burger and a brew. The Gallery Place shopping mall is also right around the corner and includes numerous stores and a movie theater.

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 5

Capitals fans truly know how to “Unleash the Fury,” as the popular video goes. There was a time not so long ago when Capitals’ games were sparsely attended and had a dead atmosphere, but this is no longer the case. With players like Alexander Ovechkin combined with a team that is actually successful, the Capitals have among the loudest and most passionate fans in DC. They’ll show up on time, they’ll stay for the whole game, and they’ll cheer their team loudly and passionately. Chants of “Let’s go Caps!” are ubiquitous and are often accompanied by airhorns. The result is a raucous atmosphere that can be intimidating to opposing teams. At big moments in the game, it can be absolutely deafening in here with how loud the crowd gets.

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. Parking fees are charged Monday-Friday and range from $3 to $6 depending on the station. All parking is free on weekends.

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.

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 intermissions, but if you leave as soon as the period ends, you should be back in your seat by the time the game resumes.

The video board has closed captioning available at the bottom for those who require it, and this can come in handy at times even for fans without hearing difficulties as it can be hard to hear the PA announcer over the noise of the crowd at times, particularly when announcing Capitals goals.

Return on Investment 3

The one major downside of Capitals’ games is the price. Tickets start at over $50 if you buy from the team, and face value can run upwards of $70 for the cheapest tickets to even moderately big games. If the Capitals are playing the Penguins, Flyers, or some other rival, tickets may very well start at over $100. And that’s just to get in the door – if you don’t want to sit at the very top of the arena, you’ll be paying even more.

Sometimes you will be able to buy resale tickets for less, but this is no guarantee. Additionally, all tickets are sold through Ticketmaster, which charges outrageously high fees. This can turn a $50 ticket into a $70 or $80 one. If you buy a multi-game plan through the team, you can at least avoid the fees, though the difference in the ticket price itself isn’t that much. Throw in the expensive concessions and the expensive parking if you don’t want to take the Metro, and a visit to a Capitals game can get extremely pricey.

In fairness, the Capitals have been one of the top teams in the league for many years running, so tickets are in high demand.

Extras 5

The 2018 championship banner is hanging down from the rafters, right next to the one honoring the Bullets’ 1978 NBA title. It cannot be stressed just how impressive the pregame program is, and it deserves a bonus star in its own right. The team also hands out free programs at the entrances, which is something not seen everywhere nowadays. The Capitals keep the fans in mind in other ways as well, such as letting them go down to ice level before the game to watch warmups, regardless of which level their tickets are for. Finally, one last bonus star for the electric atmosphere the fans create here.

Final Thoughts

A hockey game at Capital One Arena is an amazing experience, and one which has vastly improved in the years since the arena opened about two decades ago. It is truly an experience not to be missed and the atmosphere is among the best in the league. Part of that is due to the crowds while part of that is due to the team itself. Sadly, however, the extremely high cost of attending prevents many fans from attending frequently, if at all.

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