Looking Back At the Capital Centre: Local Non-Profit Putting Together Retrospective on Capitals’ First Arena

Photo: University of Maryland/University Libraries

While Capital One Arena has served as the Washington Capitals’ home arena for nearly 30 years (opening as MCI Center in 1997), many fans who were around before then will recall the days of the Capital Centre, the team’s very first home barn, in Landover, Maryland.

While not an ideal professional sporting venue by the time it was replaced by MCI Center (then Verizon Center, now Capital One Arena), the Capital Centre was the site of many an iconic moment in the history of the Capitals franchise, and also served as the home of the NBA’s Washington Bullets (now Wizards).

The Capital Centre: Remembering the Caps’; First Home

With so much history attached to the Capital Centre (eventually renamed US Airways Arena), which was demolished in 2002, a local non-profit organization called The Laurel History Boys, started by Richard Friend and Kevin Leonard of Laurel, Maryland, that collects and shares history of their hometown, have started a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to put together a 280-page retrospective on the Capital Centre.

The Laurel History Boys/Kickstarter

The book, which will feature a photographical history in honor of the nearing 5o-year anniversary of the arena substantiated by photos, artifacts, anecdotes, and more, will be centered around four main aspects, per the project’s official crowdfunding page:

  • the venue itself
  • the concert experience
  • sporting events (Washington Bullets, Washington Capitals, pro wrestling, boxing, etc.)
  • and other attractions (circuses, equestrian events, monster trucks, etc.)

The book will also feature a complete, chronological timeline of events hosted by the arena, which includes the 1982 NHL All-Star Game, three NBA Finals, the famous “Easter Epic”, iconic matches of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, and presidential inaugural festivities among other events.

The book is set to be published ahead of the arena’s 50th anniversary on December 2, and the Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign ends September 18. Contributors to the project can receive various rewards depending on their contributions, including free shipping on the book upon its release, original Capital Centre memorabilia (including ticket stubs, staff jacket, and an ashtray), and more. Any pledge of $50 or more will have their name acknowledged in the book as well.

The Capital Centre was not only a historical place in the DMV, but truly a first-of-its-kind venue: it was the first to feature an indoor instant replay scoreboard, luxury suites and turnstiles, and color-coded seats (the quality of the seat differed with the colors), as well as an in-ground construction.

For more information on the project, click HERE.

More Capital Centre:
Retro Recap – All-Star Game At The Capital Centre – February 9, 1982
Miracle on Capital Centre Ice: Retro Recap; Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens – February 19, 1980
Retro Recap: A Raucous Night At Cap Centre – New York Rangers at Washington Capitals (2/22/1991)

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan, the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. Michael joined the NoVa Caps team in 2015, and is most proud of the growth of the NoVa Caps community in that time. An avid photographer, Michael resides in VA.
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17 Responses to Looking Back At the Capital Centre: Local Non-Profit Putting Together Retrospective on Capitals’ First Arena

  1. andrew777dc says:

    Nice arena, had our favorite seats, still see it in my dreams every now and then… But getting there and especially back to Georgetown was a drag! Especially on workdays. And the VIP lounges were better fit for having drinks and chatting than actually watching the game. You had to either settle for TV screens on the wall or STAND by the railings, drinks and food in hand (there was nowhere to put them), which just didn’t cut it, having to cheer like that for several hours. So we went into the crowds eventually, found a place we liked for each time, and had a lot more fun!

  2. GR in 430 says:

    I absolutely hated that place. Hard to get to, dark and dingy, bad sight lines because the seating was spread out, and getting out of that parking lot after games was a nightmare .

    Moving downtown was the best thing Abe did for his franchises and the city. They built a great venue in a great location. Also totally revitalized the Penn quarter. A solid win for everybody.

    • Anonymous says:

      You can’t compare 2. One was designed in the early 70’s. The other in late 90s.

    • Anonymous says:

      I actually loved the character of the place. All of todays arenas are exactly the same.

    • andrew777dc says:

      Haha, I still see it in my dreams as dark and dingy)) But it brings back lots of good memories. We even managed to win from time to time)) More and more often, as time went by.
      We wandered around the arena after quitting the VIP lounge (some friends stayed on, who were more interested in just getting together and enjoying the drinks), until finally getting a good line of sight, and bought seats in that area every time after that. And the TV cube didn’t get in the way or distract us too much) Getting back to our car and out of the parking lot – oh yeah, we came back home way too late as a result! But you know, I still cherish those days in my mind)

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s my take. The character of the old barn. Plus first concerts, etc. it’s a favorite all-time place in my book.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Definitely looking for to buying this book.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Lots of memories at that place…my 1st concert – Rush, Power Windows tour, many Bullets and Caps games starting around 1977, and even paid $40;to watch Mike Tyson on the jumbo cube, remotely knock out his opponent in the 1st round. I enjoy many memories in high school with buddies showing up with less than $15 in each of our pockets, and leaving the event having watched it, and ate food and drink. We did this by buying and selling tickets before.

    Definitely don’t miss the traffic jamb heading out.

  5. Anonymous says:

    what were the names of the parking lots? eagles nest…stars and stripes…there were 1 or 2 more

  6. Anonymous says:

    I went a lot with my daughters and loved the place. We came early and parked right next to the western exit under a couple of huge old trees. When we came out of the building after the game we just found the trees and walked past all the standing and stalled cars trying to get out. Slick as you know what.. The worst part about it was that the fans from Philly, New York, New Jersey, Pittsburgh and sometimes Boston always had better teams and more fans. When the game went lopsided, as it often did, it was tough being a Cap fan. Lots of great memories.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Prevent Defense:
    Capital Centre! State-of-the-Art for its time. Great seat angles all over. Way too dark. Abe Pollin chintzed on the lighting. Really cool concourse that went all the way round. Was treated to the Caps’ all-time worst loss in that building, 8-6 to the New York Rangers (day after Xmas 1991). The Mike Liut Caps blew 6-1 lead. Mike Gartner scored winning goal for NYR. Still enjoyed three hot dogs and a huge beer. Fans pitched beer cans onto the ice. Who could ask for more?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Such great memories. I had to pitch-in a few bucks.

  9. novafyre says:

    We won the USA9 suite for Valentine’s Day aka my twins’ 7th birthday (close enough). My father came up from Tampa and we had their birthday party there and watched the Caps play the Lightning. One son won the Valentine’s raffle and received a box of candy, a dozen red roses, and a kiss from the young lady doing the delivering. Never could beat that party.

  10. Anonymous says:

    DWGie26:
    Lots of memories including my first concert which was Rush but Moving Pictures.

    Not a proud moment, but we were at a Bruins playoff game sitting a few rows from top and Boston fan through a beer on me. Led to a brawl. 10-12 people thrown out. They threw us all out of the same door and left us. We just kinda yelled at each other and went our own ways. Today, you might get shot. High likelihood to get stabbed.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hope it mentions the Washington Warthogs

  12. Anonymous says:

    My parent’s house is 5 minutes from the arena and they moved in 52 years ago. I grew up going to caps games and concerts. It is a big part of my childhood. I remember going to birthday parties in the suites for caps games. The suites were so far from the ice you could barely see the action and I remember watching the game on the TVs. Of course, getting in and out of the parking lot was a huge pain but we were so close and knew the traffic patterns that we could time it to get to our seats right as the game started. Tickets were cheap and we were so close we would often go to games at the last minute.

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