Were The Upgrades to Capital One Arena Worth the Hype (Readers’ Input)?

Photo: Joe Noyes

Following the most memorable year in Capitals history, Capital One Arena, the Capitals’ home rink, was fitted with $40 million in upgrades prior to the opening of the 2018-2019 season. In this piece, NoVa Caps takes a look at some of the new features and upgrades, and asks for your (the reader/fan) take and opinion on the new and improved Capital One Arena.

Opening its doors in December of 1997, under the name MCI Center, the DMV was treated to a groundbreaking new venue in the heart of the District, an upgrade over the the team’s original home, the Capital Centre. With the great Abe Polin’s direction and vision, the area surrounding the structure was to be revitalized by a transformation in that area of town. Throughout the past two decades, a once dilapidated section of the city has experienced a renewal, exemplifying the view Polin had in mind.

After MCI, Verizon took over the naming rights, eventually running out their contract following the 2016-17 season, with Capital One now owning naming rights, with their logo all over the building. Over the past 20 or so years, the establishment hadn’t seen many upgrades at all, until this past summer. Arguably so, Leonsis created a lot of hype around the new renovations, hoping to keep ticket sales high for all events, as well as inviting new audiences and acts alike.

​Advertised was a brand new sound system, a replacement of all seating (which include new and improved cupholders), improved media throughout, additions of VIP lounges, and multiple upgrades to the concourses. Overall, the main focus was to modernize and create a more user-friendly, technologically-advanced, and exciting experience for all people in attendance.

Whether it’s the wall of self-serve beer taps, new food options, a ton of neon lighting, or new flooring, when one steps into Capital One Area post-renovation, there is a noticeable difference. The entire place is brighter, which has a lot to do with the addition of about five million televisions (plus or minus). There isn’t a corner to turn without an LED screen swapping advertisements. Drywall work, which has changed the layout of ceilings and walls, in an effort to open up the concourses, has been completed on every level. The facility does seem to have more room, as the concourses would often be incredibly congested in between periods. Other improvements include simple touches, such as new signage for sections and bathrooms.

​When it comes to the facilities of which one can relieve oneself, they appear to have gone untouched for the most part. The urgency of men and women is very apparent, as when periods come to a close, a sudden rush of speed walking folks are jetting to the can to avoid being stuck in lines that stretch many yards into the concourse. What is most likely due to code and building protocol, adding new plumbing would have cost Leonsis and Co. much more than they were willing to spend. Unfortunately, leaving with a few seconds left in the frame may be one’s best bet, or if one is fast enough, head there on commercial breaks (when the red light comes on in the penalty box).

The pregame show has transitioned from a fairly conservative ordeal into a full blown production, as the entire sheet of ice lights up with high definition projections and effects. Leonsis, having had the Las Vegas experience in the Stanley Cup Final against the Golden Knights, seems to have taken a page from that book, just more tastefully so. Having to endure Vegas’ pregame in the playoffs is something many Caps fans never care to go through again, whether it’s live or on TV. If the improvements to the ceremonies leading up to the game are aimed at engaging the fans, and turning their attention to the ice, it seems to have done the job.

​One can literally buy their own food without having to say a word to a human being. The best guess would be the effort to reduce lines and wait times, all while providing a technology driven experience that allows the attendance to fulfill themselves briskly. Some say it’s a risky move, as the more complex the applied science is, the more prone the amenities are to failure. It’s too early to tell, but this year will provide a lot of input on the new machinery in the building. Rather than become frustrated by the lines at the beer and concession stands? Fear not, one is now able to pour their own via the self-dispense beer wall now available for fans’ convenience.


​An important focus during the rebuild was the addition of an MGM VIP Lounge which is located in the depths of the arena. This section of the building is reserved for special ticket holders that have seats right on the glass, which average well over $200 dollars per seat. With access, fans are welcomed to beer, wine, and complimentary food, served buffet style. There is a popcorn vendor and a butcher cutting hunks of meat on scene as well. Multiple seating sections are available to watch the game on a big screen while you’re at the event, a tantalizing experience.

​Overall, without getting into all the details of the facelifts the building has received in record time, Capital One Arena is most definitely a different experience from last year. The question is, was it worth all the hype? Mentioned are just a few of the more noticeable changes throughout the place Caps fans call home.

*Photos of the arena by Harrison Brown

Offical Capital One Arena Renovations website is here.

In an effort to gain fan accounts of games or events at the arena, we’d like to ask for fans to comment and discuss their experience with the “new” Capital One Arena.

By Brennan Reidy

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
This entry was posted in Fans, Game Experiences, News, NHL, Teams, Washington Capitals and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Were The Upgrades to Capital One Arena Worth the Hype (Readers’ Input)?

  1. Anonymous says:

    The decision to omit upgrades to restrooms was like a $$$ thing.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Did anyone buy any of the old seats. They are historic now. Are they still available?

  3. Anonymous says:

    The drink holder designs are bad. Really bad. If you are not 100 lbs they dig into your sides and cery uncomfortable. Outside of that I love the upgrades.

    Please remove the drink holders from the seats

  4. Anonymous says:

    The TV’s are way to small and you have no idea how much time is left before the next period begins with exception of the horn.

  5. . says:

    The cup holders in the 400
    Sections Suck. It’s hard to get
    up & down out of the
    seats. It is very tight and feel
    cramped. Most fans put their
    drinks on the floor. There is no
    arm room.

  6. Gabe Worden says:

    I hate everything they did. I’m now waiting longer for food. The drink rest don’t fit the cups. The chairs are too tight. The TV are just ads, why not show the game so while I’m waiting for food I’m not pissed off at watching from a small screen.

  7. Van says:

    The new 400 level seats are even smaller than the old ones!

  8. Steve says:

    Terrible. All those new TVs they mention… there’s nothing on them except either an advertisement or who’s currently playing. -Not the actual game, mind you, literally just a statement of who’s playing (ex: Caps vs. Rangers). Yeah thanks, I’m at the game, I know who’s playing. Maybe 1 tv out of 5 has the actual game feed on it and/or the countdown telling you how much time is left in intermission, or anything else useful. Outside 402, they put up a massive (85in?) tv in the alcove where the condiments station was. Again absolutely nothing on the tv. Then they moved those condiments to a table in front of a concession stand, and closed the stand… which creates longer lines at the surrounding stands. Brilliant! My wife says there hasn’t been warm water in the 400 level ladies rooms in 3+ years, and still isn’t. The seats are definitely tighter, as others mention. The pregame show is finally respectable, and the HD Jumbotron is great… when blocks of pixels aren’t out. The biggest problem is still a few too few restrooms (insanely long lines) and a concourse that is too narrow, thus way too crowded. 90% failure in my opinion for this renovation, largely footed by increased ticket prices (again).

  9. Anonymous says:

    The team store is monumentally disappointing. I was looking forward to a bigger store, not the same store but remodeled. The seats are comfy. The pre-game graphics are so awesome!!

  10. Doug says:

    I won’t be going another Capitals game.40 dollars for 2 beers and a bag of popcorn.Metro yellow line was broken that night.My caredit cared got hacked when I was reloading my smart card at the station at the arena

  11. I never eat at the arena, opting to hit a restaurant before the game. I get others may not have the time to do that. Really I just arrive, watch the game, hang out with some friends on the concourse between periods often getting a bottled water, piss once and that’s pretty much it.

  12. Mike says:

    Went to Capital One for the first time this year for the Pens game Wednesday. The arena as a whole looks great. I like the dark seats and some of the displays throughout the concourse are just great! That said the 400 level seats were very cramped. Hardly big enough for two adults to sit next to each other. Cup holders did get in the way. The concourse was extremely crowded and you did have to wait forever to use the restroom which had a few broken toilets to boot. Food lines were long and the Team merchandise stands were very limited. Did not even venture into the main team store as you need to provide your ticket and get your hand stamped to re-enter the arena from the store. That is great unless your friend has the tickets stored digitally on his phone and he is in his seat. Been a fan for 30 years form the Cap Center to MCI to now. Caps hockey is a great experience but the arena seating and services takes away from it.

  13. I love the build your own loaded tater tots stand, lol. The pour your own beer seems to have worked out its kinks as well (though having some local selections that aren’t owned by anheuser busch would be nice).

    Leaving out the bathrooms is my biggest gripe (though I’m not sure what could really be done to add more toilets, which is ultimately what they really need; sinks that actually work would be nice though).

    I’m curious what’s gonna happen now with the gambling legislation being approved… you know Ted’s gonna get into that, I just wonder where the betting booths or lounges will be and what they’ll look like.

  14. Allan Kaufman says:

    Have been a season ticket holder for many years — lower level, Section 111 – center ice on the red line.What i was looking forward to most was the hyped new sound system. Cannot tell any difference from previous seasons to current season – IT STILL STINKS! Everyone around me agrees.
    Have been to other arenas, most recently Vegas and Arizona and their sound is far superior. Whoever and whatever Ted paid, he should ask for his money back. Please help us hear !!!

    • Joe says:

      The new seats are okay but everything else is garbage. And the service at concession stands has gone from bad to worse. Let’s face it. Ted is a windbag.

  15. Larry says:

    The seats are horrible as the cup holders gouge elbows and literally hurt.
    Food and beverage prices are the highest of any national sports team. Quality is poor and choices even worse. Terrible fan experience. Families can’t afford to attend a game beyond the ticket price. Come on Ted, you are classier than this.

  16. Jason Rosen says:

    It was more than worth it! But for 40million, how about an ice cream machine on the 200 level so I dont have to run down to the 100 level ?

  17. Frank Armstrong, IV says:

    To me the renovation was just ok. Definitely made it look better. most of it was done half ass. Smaller TV’s. Smaller, but more comfy seats. But those advertising boards are making a ton of money for him. 40 million spent poorly!

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