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Why Are the Verizon Center Seats Purple?

Installing purple seats. (1997 photo by Juana Arias - TWP)

So last week in my chat, I wondered why the Verizon Center seats were purple. I mean, purple? Granted, it's my daughter's favorite color, but it's not a color that you immediately associate with D.C. sports.

Soon after, I got two e-mails from readers.

"I remember when the arena opened, Abe Pollin said that his wife, Irene, picked the seat color because purple is her favorite color," Reader John said.

"I was once traveling and met a woman whose job it was to pick out fabric for sports arenas. I recall she said she had just done the Verizon Center and picked out a purple color because it looked good on TV," Reader David said.

Two different answers! Controversy! I went into the Post's archives for more.

Here was critic Benjamin Forgey, writing in November of 1997 2007:

The seating bowl is a handsome, commodious affair. Arranged in three tiers, it provides excellent sight lines to the playing floor even from the highest seat in the third tier (although the steep rake of those third-tier seats is discomfiting). At first, the coloration seems surprisingly neutral. The seats are a subdued purple, and even the spectacular steel trusses necessary to span more than 350 feet are rendered almost invisible by coats of gray paint and swooping, gray acoustical baffles. But the idea here is to look down rather than up. Animation and color will be provided by thousands of spectators, a 360-degree ring of signs on the bulkhead of the third tier, and a huge four-sided video scoreboard -- one of those signature chandeliers of late 20th-century sports.

Remember how tiny that scoreboard seemed by the end of its life? Crazy how chandeliers change in just a decade. Then here's critic Roger K. Lewis, in the same month:

The bowl is another world, one that is quite elegant, especially when viewed empty. All the seats are a single, vivid but pleasant shade of purple, rather than color-coded by section. The extraordinarily complex collage of overhead elements -- steel roof trusses and bracing, decking, catwalks, duct work, conduits, acoustic baffles -- are all painted one color, charcoal gray. The gray hue unifies the disparate elements chromatically but doesn't obscure perception of the ceiling's wonderful, high-tech texture.

So it was pleasant, granted. Then-Caps coach Ron Wilson agreed, saying he liked the color scheme and calling it "a bright, happy place," in a bit of Hemingway-ese. The color has also frequently been mentioned in a snarky vein, as in "empty purple seats masquerading as Caps fans," and so on. But, why purple?

So finally, I called Matt Williams, the executive vice president of Washington Sports & Entertainment, to ask. He noted that it's been a while since the seat color were chosen, and so this is all to the best of his recollection. And there doesn't seem to be a dramatic reason.

"To be honest, I think what they were trying to do was come up with a seat that looked good for every event in there, not just Wizards, not just Caps, not just Mystics, not just Georgetown," Williams said. "And the designer, because of our original scheme, had yellow section markers, so this went well with that. It's not a hard core purple, it's more of a blueish purple. That's what I remember....They didn't want it to be something on the outlandish side, they wanted something somewhat understated."

So there you go. Better than another post about Jason Campbell, right?

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 6, 2009; 4:23 PM ET
Categories:  Caps , Wizards  
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Next: Portis Gives Hoo-Rah Talks


Nice research Steinz! Hey, you just might make it in this business

Posted by: hockeypunk | October 6, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Can you now solve the mystery of the bright orange seats at FedEx? Was there some big sale back in 1997/1998? I just feel like JKC would have made the place burgundy and gold and it baffles me everytime I am there.

Posted by: suzannepdc | October 6, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Why are my shoes brown?
oh, why are shirts different colors?
oh, why, why, is there air?
oh, why, why, why am bothering with this blog?

Posted by: hock1 | October 6, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

At least FedEx doesn't have those big green pads around the field anymore. The green is just too inviting for the top of someone's dome.

Posted by: ChampKind | October 6, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Just for trivia's sake, the Capital Centre seats were red in the upper level and blue in the lower level (or maybe it was the other way around.) That was part of the whole red, white and blue patriotic theme of the place (which opened a few years before the bicentennial) and matched the colors of the uniforms the Bullets and, later, Caps, wore. The parking lots were designated Liberty Bell, Eagle, Stars and Stripes and...I can't remember the fourth but I'm sure someone else will.

But by the time Verizon Center opened, neither team wore red, white and blue anymore.

Posted by: TheFingerman | October 6, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Time to change to red seating...not just for the Caps, but for the inevitable Wizards (Bullets?) switch back to red, white, and blue.

Posted by: ninefttall | October 6, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

The 4th parking area of Capital Centre was "Capitol".

As I understood it back in '97, the original color scheme of the MCI (Verizon) Center was purple, yellow and red to invoke a bright, festive atmosphere.

Posted by: ChrisinSS | October 6, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure those comments were made in 1997, not 2007.

Posted by: FlyersSuck | October 6, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

wooo this is perfect! can you do a piece on why some of the seats at fedex are gold and most are burgundy? There doesnt seem to be a method behind which seats are gold....

Posted by: this_is_juju | October 7, 2009 8:11 AM | Report abuse

I seem to remember hearing that the purple was chosen because it was some sort of "international color of diplomacy" or some such reason.

Posted by: Goat_74 | October 7, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

This is all hearsay about the club level seats but apparently the burgundy ones are padded...

"Originally all the club-level seats were the yellow color. I recall reading in the Washington Post a few years ago that the Redskins were giving the people with club-level tickets the option of having burgundy padding installed on their seats. For a fee, of course! (Hence why not everyone took them up on the offer.) "

Posted by: CByrd1 | October 7, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I want to say when I went on my tour with my Caps ticket rep when it was just concrete, prior to the seats being installed that Abe Pollin's wife liked the color purple and the red and yellow paint for the section markers was left over paint from the construction of FedEx Field....that's what I was told back then....Good times. Still have my hard hat from that walk thru....

Posted by: rdiehljr | October 13, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

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