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Tix and Merchandise to Cost More at VC

A 10-percent tax on tickets and mechandise sold at Verizon Center -- up from 5.7 percent -- received final approval from the DC council on Thursday. The tax hike is part of a plan to pay for $50 million in renovations to the arena, including a $5 million video screen above center ice, $3 million in improvements to luxury suites and $400,000 worth of flat panel TVs.

Some might ask why a 10 year old arena already needs such a major makeover. And that's probably a reasonable question.

I've been to the other 29 arenas in the NHL, and VC is already about middle of the pack in terms of amenities and is even lacking in a few areas. The grainy video screen and sound system immediately come to mind. (BTW, if you've never seen a high-def video screen -- Vancouver and Boston have them -- it's amazing. In fact, you can actually see the puck on replays).

I can only imagine that $50 million -- if it's spent right -- should make VC a first-class building.

The article in today's Post doesn't mention anything about new boards for the Capitals, but let's hope that's in the budget, too.

What are your feelings?

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  April 20, 2007; 7:51 AM ET
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so tarik, i finally got me season ticket renewal w/ no price increase. so i'm assuming that ted is eating the tax increase? or should i expect a surprise in the mail?

i look forward to the new video screen. it would be great to be able to see clearer replays...if they ever showed replay's that is..

can you give us your top and bottom 5 of the arena's you've been to. i think i can guess which one is last.

Posted by: Cap Fan 1 | April 20, 2007 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Top 5, in order:

1) Minnesota
2) Montreal
3) Toronto
4) Dallas
5) Anaheim

Honorable Mention: Atlanta, Raleigh, Los Angeles and San Jose.

It's a lot harder to rank the ones at the bottom. But Long Island and New Jersey are definitely on that list. Calgary and Edmonton are old buildings, but their character makes up for the lack of modern amenities.

Posted by: Tarik | April 20, 2007 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Since those in luxury suites are the only ones that will enjoy luxury suite improvements, why not charge more for the luxury suites rather than charge all attendees an additional tax?

Posted by: Blueline | April 20, 2007 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Thats good news....don't like the "increase" but hey its the way of the world. The VC is just moving up over the years. From the Cap Center with NOTHING around it, into the city where you can go before/after the game!

The video screen in Boston is FANominal! Hopefully Abe and the boys can at least get that right!

Posted by: caphcky | April 20, 2007 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Im okay with the tax hike as long as its spent on good things. Improving the video screen and sound system are definitely good things. The sound quality, especially if the Eagles Nest area, absolutely sucks. And it will be good to actually see the replays clearly.

My only question is this...after the $50M has been raised to cover the expenses, will this tax hike disappear? I'd be willing to bet no.

Posted by: SpendSomeMoney | April 20, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Blueline, last time I checked everyone sees the scoreboard, and I believe half of the tax increase goes directly to the scoreboard. If they do improve the boards like Tarik joked, that's something else that isn't just for the people in the luxury boxes, but somehow I doubt Abe would actually bother with that.

Posted by: FS | April 20, 2007 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Wow, i would have guessed pittsbugh in the bottom 5.

I believe that the tax hike is only in place until the debt is retired. of course, by that time they'll find another reason to keep it up. As a DC resident, i'm glad the counsel was able to approve this given what abe has done for the area. funny that the arena upgrades are going to cost more than the teams salary. can we get the district to float a bond so we can sign some free agents??

and whats with the boards? are they bad or is it the people who put them together the problem. i'm assuming you're talking about the issue with the glass constantly falling out, particularly after quick turnarounds cause of gtown games. is there another issue w/ the boards?

Posted by: Cap Fan 1 | April 20, 2007 9:46 AM | Report abuse

i completely forgot Pittsburgh. it's def. in the bottom five.

Posted by: Tarik | April 20, 2007 9:49 AM | Report abuse

FS, $3 million has already been earmarked specifically for luxury suite improvements and those are the improvements I'm referring to when I say " suite improvements." What does that have to do with the scoreboard?

Posted by: Blueline | April 20, 2007 9:51 AM | Report abuse

I've sat in several areas of VC over the last couple of seasons and haven't noticed much of a problem with the sound system. It does sound though that a lot of sound is getting lost in the ceiling, but other than that are there dead spots? I know when they put that Verizon ad under the scoreboard, it got harder to hear the horn and those speakers that are under the board and at one point redid part of the sound system this year.

I'll be the first to go for the all-out, top-of-the-line sound system though, I'm just wondering if I happy to get lucky with my seats every time I go.

An HD video board, will this also include a new scoreboard portion as well and if so, does that mean that all of the scoreboards will be revamped? What about the color matrix boards in the corners which are obscured from some seats by banners? Anything is better than what Florida had at the Miami Arena that looked like 9 TV's put together.

Posted by: Jarrod | April 20, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

blueline, the luxury suite folks will pay much more, in dollars, than the rest of us since the ticket prices (suite rental fee) are higher than regular seats. the luxury suite costs are less than 10% of the total expendature. and since the luxury box revenue belongs entirely to abe, it makes sense that he would focus on them. having been in a few suites, i'm not sure what effect the changes would have. but during some of the wiz and caps games i've been to, it would have been nice to have a flat screen up there so we could watch something else!

Posted by: Cap Fan 1 | April 20, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I'm kind of torn about this. It will be nice to have a new screen and sound system, but I really don't like how Pollin is doing it. Going to the city for a tax? Hell, why didn't he just up his ticket prices 10% instead? Oh yeah, so he can still up the ticket prices, pocket the money and get an upgrade for free. Now, when people complain about prices, he can point a finger at the DC Council saying that it's a city tax.

I agree with spendsomemoney- This tax is too lucrative for the city to just go away after the 50 Million is covered. So we can now thank Pollin for inviting the council to tax the fans long after he has gotten his upgrades.

I probably shouldn't be too bitter, but I think the way Pollin has handled this is pathetic.

Posted by: keydet | April 20, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

"The article in today's Post doesn't mention anything about new boards for the Capitals, but let's hope that's in the budget, too."

Actually that's being covered by an anonymous private donation from a T. Renney.

Posted by: Mark Tucker | April 20, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Mark Tucker -- Ha! that's the funniest thing I've heard all week! But you forgot to mention Lundqvist.

Posted by: Tarik | April 20, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I'm suprised no one has thought about the obvious. Some of these improvements not only benefit the Caps, but also the Wizards.

You have to wonder if the Wizards are planning on changing their tickets prices.

Posted by: mikecaps | April 20, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Blueline, from what I remember from Abe's original request, he plans on raising the price of the luxury suites from under $200K to around $450K. So they are paying for their upgrades. The rest of the money was proposed for overall building upgrades and general facility changes; screen, wiring upgrades, painting, technology upgrades, etc. This is also to improve the area to attract other big money events for Abe like basketball tournaments and concerts. It's not just for us hockey fans.

Posted by: Stimpy | April 20, 2007 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Cap Fan 1, I just raise the issue because all are being forced to pay for the benefits of a few. It's kind of like that old Star Trek move where Capt. Kirk tells Spock that sometimes the "needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many".

Also, I bring this up because Tarik only accounts for $8.4 million of the $50 million that will be collected (not busting on you, Tarik, but that's all you gave us). Makes one wonder where the other money will be spent. When this tax was first proposed, I heard one rumor that surrounding businesses will see face-lifts to "spruce up the area". As a guy who just wants to watch some hockey, why would I want to pay for that?

Okay, I'm done with my rant.

Posted by: Blueline | April 20, 2007 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Ok, after seeing Stimpy's response, maybe I'm not done with my rant.

So if luxury suite tenants are "paying for their upgrades", then they won't be needing that $3 million. Cool, we're making progress. Now the city only needs to collect $47 million.

Posted by: Blueline | April 20, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

why don't they just move the team to Kansas City where a state of the art arena is waiting with FREE RENT plus crazy revenue sharing?...then, he can just put an AHL team in the building, lower the ticket prices, and we will have essentially what we had this year.

Posted by: Will Watch From Home | April 20, 2007 11:17 AM | Report abuse

"why don't they just move the team to Kansas City where a state of the art arena is waiting with FREE RENT plus crazy revenue sharing?...then, he can just put an AHL team in the building, lower the ticket prices, and we will have essentially what we had this year."

Now THERE'S a thought. I'd rather see them move to Hartford so they wouldn't have to change their name, but your idea works!

Posted by: caphcky | April 20, 2007 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Why don't you two just stay home and let the rest of us enjoy the upgrades?? Price increase or not, I'm still going to watch MY team at VC. Plus, this will look good for the Frozen Four in 2009.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

keydet, I am no fan of old Abe and haven't been since he let Scott Stevens walk, but I have no problem with him going to the city for this money. He built the arena on his own without money from the city (except maybe infrastructure stuff, which I don't know about but I am talking about the arena proper only) and look at the boom it has been to that part of the city and their tax base. To ask the city to help contribute to the upkeep of the arena seems a very small price considering they didn't have to build the arena and have reaped huge benefits from it.

Posted by: freakinandpeakin | April 20, 2007 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"Now THERE'S a thought. I'd rather see them move to Hartford so they wouldn't have to change their name, but your idea works!"

Now, THERE'S a REAL Cap fan.

Posted by: slappy | April 20, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Thank you!

Posted by: caphcky | April 20, 2007 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Hey Tarik,
Have you been to Columbus or St. Louis? Both are awesome arenas. Of course it didn't hurt that when I was in St. Louis they had models in tube tops with "Jaegermeister" written in glitter and short shorts handing out free Jaeger shots to everyone.

I agree that the video and, in particular, sound system in Vancouver is just stunning. Makes that arena just look like night and day to its former self.

I'd have to say my top five, in no particular order, are: Minnesota, Columbus, St. Louis, Toronto and Anaheim with special mention to Ottawa, Carolina, Phoenix and Nashville.

Posted by: Jay | April 20, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I've noticed that the further up you are at VC, the harder it is to hear the PA announcer. The sound in general gets a bit muffled in the upper half of the 400s.

I'm all about a nice HD screen as long as they start playing replays on it. Maybe I was young and don't remember clearly, but I seem to recall them being really good about the replays (or at least better) at USAir. It seems like every time I look up for a replay now at VC I end up disappointed. It's like they're more concerned about showing what's happening live 30 feet below the screen than they are about actually showing people things that should be seen in slow-mo or from different angles - which I thought was the whole point of the bloody thing.

If the experience at VC actually improves, I'll have no problem paying the tax.

...just my $0.02

Posted by: HolyOlie | April 20, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

This may apply to the Wizards more than the Caps, but do you know if the 10 percent tax will be applied to the face value of the tickets or the actual sale price?

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | April 20, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

what is the ETA on the new main video screen? next season??

Posted by: some guy | April 20, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

This is a crazy tax.

Abe wants to improve VC. That's fine, in fact it's great. Incremental improvements on a good building to keep it up to date will hopefully keep the place humming along and not turn into a pit.

But why does he go to the city for the money? Especially when the tax they impose to pay for the upgrades is straight to VC customers only.

Why not just throw a 10% hike on all VC events and bypass the city bureaucracy and overhead?

(Power Boater, the actual sale price is the ticket price + many random fees, the new actual price will be 110%ticketprice + many random fees) and

Posted by: Kim | April 20, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Jay -- I forgot about St. Louis. Haven't been there in a while. it is very nice, too.

Posted by: Tarik | April 20, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Question, how is it that Carolina ranks higher than VC. They were built by the same companies, designed by the same companies, and are laid out almost identically; the only difference is that Raleigh's club concourse is a little smaller. Go to a game there and they all think Washington has a better arena. Personally, the seats are nearly identical from the ice from all positions.

Posted by: Carolina vs. VC | April 20, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Abe Fee
Ted Fee
Abe 2 Fee
Abe I'm hungry Fee
Abe Left Pocket Fee-to fill his left pocket
Abe Right Pocket Fee-to fill his right pocket
Abe Side Pocket Fee-for pool tables
Abe I Need More Money Fee
DC Tax

Sounds about right???

Posted by: Random Fees | April 20, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Anybody else notice at Caps games that during breaks in play (ice cleaning, time outs etc,) that they start all the media on the big screen really late? Its very annoying and I have noticed that the players seemed annoyed by it as well as they have to wait for the music/video to stop before the puck drops.

Or, the video is just abruptly cut. Its just odd, and has more to do with staff (it would seem) then equipment. After having watched the Caps all season, I cant help but wonder why they just dont cue that stuff and hit play the minute the game is delayed?

And, I just took a deep breath and a swig of tequila and sent in my renewal. I was wincing while I dropped it in the mailbox. I would rather just not see the final price on the invoice:)

Posted by: LB | April 20, 2007 1:58 PM | Report abuse

From the article that Tarik linked:

"Pollin has agreed to give the city a rent-free 24-seat luxury suite with numerous amenities and a clear view of the floor."

I wonder, as a tax-paying resident of DC, when I'll get to sit in those seats.

Posted by: zamboni | April 20, 2007 2:19 PM | Report abuse

"Abe Fee
Ted Fee
Abe 2 Fee
Abe I'm hungry Fee
Abe Left Pocket Fee-to fill his left pocket
Abe Right Pocket Fee-to fill his right pocket
Abe Side Pocket Fee-for pool tables
Abe I Need More Money Fee
DC Tax

Sounds about right???"

LOL...covers it nicely. The WORST is yet to come when Ted buys the Bullets and controls BOTH. Hang in there Mr Pollin!

Posted by: caphcky | April 20, 2007 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Zamboni, I saw that, too and wondered who might get to use the DC Council suite. Hey, if it's kids who might not get a chance to see "live" hockey, then I'm all for it. If it's for "political entertainment" and other "glad-handing", then it reeks of collusion. If that's the case, perhaps we can replace the pics of Crosby in the porcelein conveniences with pics of various city council members.

Posted by: Blueline | April 20, 2007 2:59 PM | Report abuse

i think the reason that abe went to the city is that he is having trouble paying the current debt on the arena and therefore can't take on more debt to upgrade. also, by using municipal bonds (perhaps tax free) the cost is less than if abe went to get a loan. plus, the first rule of development, use someone else's money.

zam, i'm a dc resident too. i've already got my invite to the dc box. it's for wizards second round playoff games! sweet!!!

Posted by: Cap Fan 1 | April 20, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

and to random, good stuff. but can we agree that dc has benefitted tremendously thanks to abe building that place. think of the tax revenue from local business and property taxes collected from residences that didn't exist before the arena. i'd say he deserves to have his pocket filled one more time.

Posted by: Cap Fan 1 | April 20, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Anybody else notice at Caps games that during breaks in play (ice cleaning, time outs etc,) that they start all the media on the big screen really late? Its very annoying and I have noticed that the players seemed annoyed by it as well as they have to wait for the music/video to stop before the puck drops

FYI... the timing of the TV timeouts is a fix length and the puck drop does not wait anything happening in the arena. Once the puck is dropped any running audio/video is expected to be stopped immediately (NHL rules). So I don't think that is what is annoying the players.

Posted by: Jay | April 20, 2007 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I did note that late in the season, the timeout videos did start a bit late. On the same topic, perhaps Tarik can chime in on the quality of the videos they play. I don't get to any other arena's in the NHL, but I think the videos with the other teams player in the penalty box crying and hugging a suffed animal are really creative. I admit that the first time that I saw it I was fooled. Plus the "I would do anything for love" videos are pretty funny, even if predictable. Are they just copying what other teams do or are they being original.

Posted by: Video Board | April 20, 2007 3:50 PM | Report abuse

raise money from taxpayers
fix up building at no cost to owner
owner charges more for building when he sells it
all at no extra cost other than usage of 1 box
sounds like a typical 'rich person getting tax break' deal
ted, you paying attention? your 'fans' are paying to fix up the building so you have to pay more for it. then, you'll have less to spend on the teams. oh the irony.

Posted by: Caps Fan Sort Of | April 20, 2007 3:55 PM | Report abuse

it is good they are going to upgrade the big screen and audio. since most people can't afford the lower bowl tickets, more fans will be sitting upstairs and need the upgrades. $50 million seem like a lot of money to anyone else? fyi, according to wikipedia the giant center in hershey cost $65 million to build, since the caps only draw about 10k a game, maybe they should just build a new arena?

Posted by: Unbiased Bill | April 20, 2007 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Giant Center and Verizon Center are two totally different situations.
Hershey has cheaper land and labor costs.
Also building in an arena in farmland requires less logistics for construction than building in a major city.

This doesn't even factor in the Wiz, Mystics, and Georgetown B-Ball.

Personally I don't think Abe is that out of line. He was responsible for revitalizing that entire area of the city. The city is generating a lot of tax dollars just from all the new condos and businesses in the C-town-Penn Quarter-Gallery Place area.

Posted by: slappy | April 20, 2007 4:17 PM | Report abuse

cap fan sort of, the burden of the upgrades are not to the taxpayers they are for the patrons of the verizon center. this is the same issue raised with the nats stadium deal. if you never go to the VC, then you will not be burdened w/ the added cost. and what tax break is abe or ted getting? they are getting the city to finance the upgrade, of which 100% will be paid by a tax on tickets and merchandise. not a tax break. lets not forget who's money it was who built the place origionally.

Posted by: Caps Fan 1 | April 20, 2007 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Bill, Giant Center only cost $65M, but it came with the chocolate smell built in. To get that same smell here would probably cost another $50M, so we're back where we started!

Posted by: Giant Center | April 20, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

After/while the VC was built didn't Abe have a spat with the city? Something like there was a vague commitment by the city (probably Barry) to help fund it or pay for some parts of it that didn't actually happen and Abe was publicly upset.

Marion Barry has been very enthusiastic about this proposal which is interesting given his strong opposition to the baseball stadium.

Might this be some restitution years later to not make it look like a quid pro quo resolution the of prior discontent. DC politics, especially those that swirl around Marion Barry, be they what they may.

Posted by: Bubba | April 20, 2007 5:59 PM | Report abuse

financial questions are answered in the original WP article:

Very reasonable offer, hopefully the AV upgrades will come quickly. Maybe next season, don't see them being able to the ordering and installation during the summer (maybe even take two years, those TV's don't roll of an assembly line)

Posted by: warehouse | April 24, 2007 9:41 AM | Report abuse

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