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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Capital One Arena – Washington Capitals

Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Capital One Arena

601 F St NW

Washington, DC 20004

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 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 all ages. 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 5

A Capitals game at Capital One Arena is a fantastic experience, starting before the puck is even dropped. A few minutes before the pregame, fog will descend from the rafters of the arena. While this may seem odd, it does serve a purpose. When the pregame starts, the lights will go out in the arena as spotlights shine through the fog, creating patterns on the ice and in the air. Meanwhile, graphics, including the Capitals' logo and video of Caps players, will be projected onto the ice itself. The team is introduced, the anthem plays as an American flag projects onto the ice, and the puck drops.

A large scoreboard and videoboard overhangs center ice and shows player and team stats as well as live video of the game. Smaller boards in the corners show the players on the ice for the Capitals as well as live odds of this game and others around the country, presented by Caesar's Sportsbook, which has a location attached to the arena. (The arena and the two blocks surrounding it are also the only parts of DC where fans use the Caesar's Sportsbook app, due to DC's unusual sports betting laws.)

The backs of these boards serve as video boards for fans sitting in the corner sections of the upper levels. Unless you are sitting in one of these sections, you will not be able to see the back of the board, but you will likely have a better viewing angle of the one at center ice.

There will be content held off-ice during media timeouts and shown on the big screen. Between periods, youth teams come onto the ice and play a hockey match.

The Capitals' mascot, Slapshot, is an eagle. He can be seen roving the arena and interacting with fans. Each player has their personal goal song which is played over the PA system after they score.

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 4

Although Capitals games are not the constant sellouts they were a few years ago, the fans still Rock the Red as the saying goes, and cheer on their team. Expect the place to erupt after Capitals goals. Cheers of "Let's Go Caps!" and "C-A-P-S Caps Caps Caps!" can be heard throughout the game. While the crowds are not as large or raucous as they were during and immediately after the Stanley Cup run, they are still large, loud, and passionate about their team.

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 4

Tickets to Capitals games will start at $50-$60 for upper-level seats and go up from there. Seats in the lower level will cost several times that. Concessions are expensive as well. This is all typical of NHL arenas nowadays, and the experience here is good enough to still make this an above-average value. Still, you can expect to pay quite a bit for a Capitals game.

Extras 4

Look for the banners in the rafters honoring Capitals' history, including the 2018 Stanley Cup Championship.

If the Capitals are losing or tied late in the game, expect the "Unleash the Fury" video to play on the jumbotron during one of the final media timeouts. This video consists of various clips from movies and people shouting "Unleash the Fury" to pump up the crowd and excite them and the team to rally to victory.

The pregame show and ability to project images onto the ice during this show and at other times, while related, are each worthy of their extra star here.

Final Thoughts

While the experience of a Capitals game at Capital One Arena has diminished somewhat since the Stanley Cup run a few years ago, it is still one of the better experiences in the NHL. Hockey fans will want to Rock the Red and check out a game here.

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