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