Snider: New Cap1 Centre Should Remain Downtown

by Rick Snider

Reports of renaming Verizon Center next year to Capital One Centre surely pleases some longtime Washingtonians who remember now-gone Capital Centre in Landover. Soon, fans will say Cap1 Centre when referring to Cap Centre 2.0.

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But, that’s a distraction from the real issue: Are owner Ted Leonsis and city leaders planning to move the successful downtown arena to the RFK site? That would really stink.

The MCI Center-turned-Verizon Center transformed the Penn Quarter when opening in 1997. It was a virtual ghost town despite being a few blocks from Pennsylvania Ave.

A DowntownDC Business Improvement District report claims the arena created $8.5 billion in new construction projects and 55,000 jobs while adding $3.8 billion in tax revenues. And that’s exactly why some District officials want it moved to the eastern edge of town once the Washington Redskins eliminate their former home as a site for a new 2027 stadium.

A new arena was among three options for the site revealed by city planners last spring. But somehow the thought of Verizon Center becoming dark in return for a new venue seemed far-fetched and overlooked. Verizon Center is a great location with a metro stop and plenty of nearby bars and restaurants. Government workers attending Wizards and Capitals games, and other events are already nearby.

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Granted, the RFK site has a metro stop and if an arena is built, then restaurants/bars and more will follow. And it will surely help rejuvenate a long-neglected part of town.

Meanwhile, Leonsis would get a new facility and certainly greater profits. While I don’t blame him for wanting that, I would blame city leaders for abandoning something that works so well. Maybe Verizon Center can be converted into office space, but losing the arena will cost overall city tourism and energy.

A new name is nice. A new venue requires a long discussion on whether helping one area of town at the expense of another is worthwhile.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.

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