|The Phone Booth|
|Former names||MCI Center (1997–2006)|
|Location||601 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20004-1603|
|Opened||December 2, 1997|
|Owner||Washington Sports and Entertainment (land leased from the City of Washington)|
|Operator||Washington Sports and Entertainment|
|Construction cost||$ 260 million|
|Architect||Ellerbe Becket Architects & Engineers|
Ice hockey: 18,277
|Washington Capitals (NHL) (1997-present)
Washington Wizards (NBA) (1997-present)
Washington Mystics (WNBA) (1998-present)
Georgetown Hoyas (NCAA) (1997-present)
Washington Power (NLL) (2001-2002)
The Verizon Center (formerly MCI Center) is a sports and entertainment arena in Washington, D.C., USA, named after telecommunications sponsor Verizon Communications. The arena has been nicknamed the "Phone Booth" because of its association with telecommunications companies. The arena is home to the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League, Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association, Georgetown University men's basketball, and Washington Mystics of the Women's National Basketball Association. It is located in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington. The Verizon Center sits atop the Gallery Place-Chinatown station on the Red, Yellow, and Green lines of the Washington Metro.
The arena opened as the MCI Center on December 2, 1997 in downtown Washington's Chinatown. When Verizon bought out MCI in 2006, the arena's name was changed accordingly. The building replaced the US Air Arena, which was located on the Capital Beltway in Landover, Maryland. Some complained that the building's construction, by closing off a block of G St, corrupted the historic L'Enfant layout of the Washington city streets.
Others were concerned it would lead to the displacement of Chinese businesses in Chinatown. While largely considered a commercial success, the Verizon Center was the catalyst that led to gentrification of Washington's Chinatown, with rent increases after construction of the Arena forcing many small Chinese businesses to close. On the other hand, the Arena is not only a popular venue for sports and concerts, but helped to turn "Gallery Place/Chinatown" neighborhood into one of the prime sites for commercial development in Washington. Virtually all Chinese residents in the D.C. area already live in the suburbs, and displacement that occurred over the years has been mostly commercial rather than residential.
2008 marked the first year that the Wizards and Capitals both played playoff games in the building in the same calendar year. Furthermore, in D.C. sports lore, 2008 also marked the first time the Wizards, Caps and Washington Redskins each made the playoffs since 1988.
The Verizon Center is the home arena of the NHL's Washington Capitals, the NBA's Washington Wizards, the NCAA's Georgetown University Hoyas men's basketball team, and the WNBA's Washington Mystics. It was home to the Washington Power of the NLL from 2001–2002. It seats 20,173 for basketball and 18,277 for hockey.
June 16, 1998 - Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings: The Caps lose 4–1 to the Red Wings to be swept four games to none in the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals. It was the first, and as yet still only, visit to the Stanley Cup Finals for the Caps.
February 21, 2003 - Washington Wizards vs. New Jersey Nets: Michael Jordan scores 43 points, becoming the All-Time oldest player, and only player, at age 40 or older to ever score 40 points in an NBA Game. The Wizards win 89–86.
April 5, 2003 - Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: Peter Bondra passes Mike Gartner as the Washington Capitals' career scoring leader. A tip-in ties the record early in the 3rd period and an empty net goal with 12 seconds left in the game sealed the record for Bondra. The Caps won 5–3.
April 30, 2005 - Washington Wizards vs. Chicago Bulls: The Wizards win their first playoff game in nearly 17 years with a 117–99 win over the Bulls. Oddly enough, it is the first NBA playoff game ever held within the District of Columbia (as a DC-area team, they previously played at USAir Arena in Landover, Maryland).
May 6, 2005 - Washington Wizards vs. Chicago Bulls: Jared Jeffries picked up a loose ball and went in for an uncontested tiebreaking dunk with 32 seconds left, thus giving the Washington Wizards a 94–91 win over the Bulls and taking the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series from them four games to two. The game marks the first playoff series victory for the Wizards in twenty three years.
January 21, 2006 - Georgetown Hoyas vs. Duke Blue Devils: The then-unranked Georgetown University Hoyas would defeat the then-undefeated #1 ranked Blue Devils 87–84, marking the first notable game of coach John Thompson III's career, as well as an important boost enroute to the NCAA tournament, where they would reach the Sweet Sixteen.
March 26, 2006 - George Mason Patriots vs. Connecticut Huskies: The Patriots, playing in front of a mostly partisan crowd due to George Mason University being just across the Potomac River from the arena, defeat the top seeded UConn Huskies to become only the second double-digit seed to reach the NCAA Final Four.
April 5, 2008 - Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers: The Capitals defeat the Panthers 3–1 to clinch the Southeast Division title and their first playoff berth in five years. The win marked an unprecedented comeback in NHL history, as the 2007–2008 Caps became the first team in NHL history to make the playoffs after rallying from 14th or 15th place at the season's midpoint . The game was the third home game of the week and all three were sellouts in which the entire Verizon Center crowd was wearing red .
April 11, 2009 - Boston University Terriers vs. Miami University RedHawks: In the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey National Championship Game, the Boston University Terriers erased a two goal deficit in the final minute of the game, forcing sudden-death overtime. The Terriers would go on to defeat the RedHawks in overtime on a goal by Colby Cohen to cap what is considered to be one of the best championship games of all time.
The arena is owned by Washington Sports & Entertainment (which owns the Wizards and formerly owned the Capitals and Mystics), but on land leased from the city of Washington. At the end of the 30 year lease, the land is set to revert to the ownership of the city, with the mayor of Washington to make mandatory biennial reviews of the city's continuing need for the arena.
Two notable fan fixtures at Washington Capitals games at Verizon Center since the late '90s include Goat and The Horn Guy. "Goat," aka William Stilwell, sits in Section 105 and loudly stomps and starts cheers for the team, with his loud voice that The Washington Post once called "the loudest voice and stompiest stomp on F Street."  "The Horn Guy," aka Sam Wolk, sits in section 415 and blows out three blasts on a horn to which the arena responds "Let's Go Caps!," a chant that can be heard during radio and TV broadcasts, home and away.
The "Washington Mystics Attendance Champions" banners that hang at the Verizon Center have been the focal point of much criticism over the years, with many people believing that the rafters should be reserved for achievements by sports teams and not by the fans. Critics think it is insulting to have banners for championships and retired numbers hang next to "attendance champion" banners. Originally there were six banners (1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004); today there are only three (for the first two seasons plus 2002, the only season in which the Mystics have won a playoff series to date), with the other three being removed in 2007 to make way for a banner honoring Final Four appearances by the Georgetown Hoyas.
The Washington City Paper has called them "embarrassing" , a 2005 ESPN.com article by Todd Wright commented, "it's time to lose those Mystics attendance banners hanging from the rafters" , the Sports Road Trip website mocked the banners by stating "Oh... Mystics... WNBA "attendance champions" in '98 and '99. "Wheeeeeeee!" .
When Washington Post writer Jon Gallo was asked about the banners, he stated "The attendance banners were largely achieved because the Mystics gave away approximately 30 percent of their tickets before Sheila Johnson took over the team. If the Mystics had made everyone pay for a ticket, then they would not have had the best attendance in the league." .
In the 2009 season, the Mystics once again led the WNBA in attendance at 11,338 per game; however, in an entry on his blog earlier that season, Ted Leonsis, whose Lincoln Holdings owns the Mystics, had promised that there will be no attendance banner for 2009 should the Mystics conclude the season with the attendance lead.
In December 2007, then-Capitals captain Chris Clark gained a bit of press by stating that he believed the Verizon Center had the worst ice in the NHL. "There's a lot of ruts in the ice. It's soft. It's wet half the time. I could see a lot of injuries coming from the ice there. It could cost [players] their jobs...Even guys on other teams say the same thing. When we're facing off, they say, 'How do you guys play on this?'" Caps owner Ted Leonsis addressed this criticism directly . The ice quality issue has been persistent both since the opening of Verizon Center, but with the Capitals franchise in general .