As an avid hockey fan, I have attended many Capitals games at the Verizon Center over the past two decades. The “Phone Booth,” as it is affectionately called, is a major landmark in D.C.’s Chinatown and it is the home to many wonderful and heartbreaking hockey moments. But how does the Verizon Center compare to other NHL arenas?
I love to travel and have visited seven other arenas; my goals is to visit them all. The NHL arenas I have visited and attended games for include:
- Amalie Arena (Tampa Bay Lightning
- Consol Energy Center (Pittsburgh Penguins)
- Honda Center (Anaheim Ducks)
- Nationwide Arena (Columbus Blue Jackets)
- PNC Arena (Carolina Hurricanes)
- Prudential Center (New Jersey Devils)
- Staples Center (Los Angeles Kings)
- Verizon Center (Washington Capitals)
Let’s compare these venues with the Verizon Center to see how our home ice arena fares to our competitors.
When fans attend a game at Verizon Center, most park their cars in the parking decks around the Verizon Center or they take the DC Metro. While the Metro is convenient the trains get very congested, especially after the game. The parking decks near Verizon Center usually cost at least $20, plus the parking spaces are very tight.
Because the Verizon Center is in the middle of the city, parking is limited and there is no opportunity to tailgate. In Raleigh, the PNC Arena is right next door to Carter Finley Stadium, so both venues share large open parking lots. In Tampa, there are many open grass and concrete lots that surround Amalie Arena for parking. The arenas in Pittsburgh and New Jersey,with their city-based arenas, share the Verizon Center’s parking challenges.
Best NHL Arena Parking/Transportation: PNC Arena (Carolina); Amalie Arena (Tampa Bay)
Worst NHL Arena Parking/Transportation: Consol Energy Center (Pittsburgh); Prudential Center (New Jersey)
The gates at the Phone Booth are limited with only a minimal number of lanes that fans can use to enter in an efficient manner. Furthermore, the security check process is slow. I recommend that fans get to the gates at least 60-90 minutes early to minimize their wait time. In my opinion, the gates should be open at least two rather than one hour before puck drop.
The main entrances in Columbus, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey are large and have plenty of escalators to the main levels.. Pittsburgh’s arena, Consol Energy Center, is unique in that it has a radio feed being broadcasting at the entrances.
Best NHL Arena Gates: Nationwide Arena (Columbus); Consol Energy Center (Pittsburgh)
Worst NHL Arena Gates: Staples Center (Los Angeles); Verizon Center
The Verizon Center walkways/corridors are average in size compared to the other NHL venues. Verizon Center’s lower level has a decent amount of walking space, but is rather congested before and after games. The upper level of Verizon Center is a bit tight, and is narrower than the lower level walkways. Furthermore, Verizon Center needs more escalators and stairways so that fans can get to and from their seats more easily.
The Amalie Arena’s walkways are narrow for its size, I was very surprised that the walkways and corridors are as small and cramped as they are. The narrow walkways can induce feelings of claustrophobia when there are a lot of people roaming inside of them.
In New Jersey and Columbus, the walkways are all very open and wide in a lot of areas. There is plenty of moving space and you do not feel like you are walking on top of someone else in the concourse.
Best NHL Arena Walkways/Corridors: Prudential Center (New Jersey); Nationwide Arena (Columbus)
Worst NHL Arena Walkways/Corridors: Amalie Arena (Tampa Bay)
I do not believe there are many (if any) bad seats at the Verizon Center. Whether you are sitting down low or in the upper decks, the visibility and seat comfort is good. While some seats at the Verizon Center are worn and the covers could be replaced, they are comfortable, even for larger people.
The seats in Tampa and Los Angeles are larger and wider and are above average in comfort. The tightest seats are in Carolina and Anaheim and if you have long legs or a wide waist expect to sit bunched up the whole game.
Best NHL Arena Seats: Amalie Arena (Tampa Bay); Staples Center (Los Angeles)
Worst NHL Arena Seats: PNC Arena (Carolina); Honda Center (Anaheim)
Verizon Center’s in-game entertainment has some of the best fan hype-up videos in the NHL. The “Unleash the Fury” spectacle is a must-see for any hockey fan that attends a game in D.C. I am disappointed with the lack of dance cams and would like to see more player personality videos. The sound system at Verizon Center could be louder and deeper, but the music selection in D.C. is good.
The best in-game entertainment I have ever seen is at the Staples Center. The pre-game light show is phenomenal, and they also have great promotional activities during the game e.g., dance and flex cams. In addition to their awesome fan interaction, they have a deep evil sounding organ play during their hockey games. Staples Center has the best sound system of any of the NHL arenas because it has a very deep bass. This video shows the “Go Kings Go Chant” with organ accompaniment Go Kings Go with Organ Accompaniment. The best music variety of these arenas is a toss-up between the Staples Center and Verizon Center.
If you like country music and classic rock, visit Raleigh and Anaheim for their limited music variety. I am also giving Raleigh and Anaheim negative marks for poor entrance videos that fail to fire up their fans when the players enter the ice.
A final note: The cannon in Columbus is awesome and it deserves some praise. It is one of the most underrated things in the NHL today and it can give you a good scare if you are not paying attention.CBJ Goal Horn and Canon
Best NHL Arena In-Game Entertainment: Staples Center (Los Angeles); Verizon Center (Washington D.C.)
Worst NHL Arena In-Game Entertainment: PNC Arena (Carolina); Honda Center (Anaheim)
Verizon Center probably has the loudest fans in both the regular season and playoff games. There is nothing in the NHL quite like a Capitals game at Verizon Center during the playoffs. The energy in the building is unmatched and the fans really “Unleash the Fury.” In fact, the Verizon Center may have the loudest fans in the NHL. When the Capitals score a goal, you can sometimes barely hear yourself think.
When the “Unleash the Fury” video comes on the scoreboard, the decibels get sky-high. The atmosphere is a huge part of the experience at the Verizon Center. When the Capitals fans have chanted “we are louder” in the past, I believe they can actually back that statement up. The arena that can almost match Verizon Center in loudness is the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The Consol Energy Center is quiet for having as many fans as they do on a nightly basis. When the Penguins come onto the ice or score a goal, there is never a loud roar from the crowd. PNC Arena in Raleigh is also fairly quiet during games but probably more due to overall lack of fan support.
Best NHL Arena Atmosphere/Crowd Noise: Verizon Center (Washington D.C.); Staples Center (Los Angeles)
Worst NHL Arena Atmosphere/Crowd Noise: Consol Energy Center (Pittsburgh); PNC Arena (Raleigh)
So What Are My Favorite NHL Venues?
All of these NHL venues have both unique features as well as areas that they can improve upon. The chart below breaks illustrates my rating of the eight NHL venues I have visited.
When I think of glitz and glamour, the Staples Center in Los Angeles is King (literally). I think the Staples Center is probably my favorite NHL venue. While the parking areas and entrance gates are not great at Staples Center, the in-game experience is phenomenal and the Verizon Center could learn a few things from Staples Center in regards to entertainment and presentation during games. The crowd can almost match the loudness of the Verizon Center crowd.
While both venues excel at in-game presentation and entertainment, the Staples Center has a slight edge because of the light show and camera work. Both venues have excellent music selections but the Staples Center’s superior speaker system gives it a slight advantage over Verizon.
I highly recommend that any hockey fan should go see a game at the Staples Center. The weather is good in Los Angeles for most of the year, so there is never really a bad time to go out west. While you visit the Los Angeles area, you might as well take in the Honda Center to see a Ducks game. While Honda Center is not as luxurious as Staples Center, it has nice concourses and has one of the easier parking arrangements among these NHL venues.
I love the Verizon Center and there are only a few things that I would change. It is a great venue that looks good and appears young even though it is almost 20 years old. Verizon Center is at the top for me in terms of game atmosphere and it has above average seating. Washington D.C. is an ideal location for any traveling hockey fan to catch a game.
While the Verizon Center is my second favorite arena hockey games in Washington D.C. are fun, and the Verizon Center is a cozy place and “Unleash the Fury” is the perfect slogan for the Phone Booth because the Capitals fans know how to make a lot of noise.
By George Foussekis