Leonsis on Verizon Center scheduling
With Ted Leonsis set to assume ownership of Verizon Center, many Caps fans have hoped this will mean a more sympathetic home venue for their team. Among the oft-heard complaints, Caps fans have said that the temperature at Verizon is not optimal for good ice, the basketball team gets preference in the arena set-up, and the scheduling seems to include too many nods to circuses and horse shows and not enough to the professional sports tenants.
This was among the many issues Leonsis was asked about Friday at the National Press Club. (See also: the NHL's financial health and NBA free agency, John Wall, the Wizards' uniforms.) And Leonsis suggested that longtime critics of Verizon Center scheduling don't understand the pressures of owning that building.
"You know, there's a lot of misinformation out there," he said. "You know, [that] the Caps were not treated as well as they should because they were tenants. And the truth of the matter is that Mr. Pollin was a hero. He built the arena downtown in an area that when I went to Georgetown, I was told never go past 9th street. And today it's the cultural hub of the city. It's raised the tax base. It's generated revenues for the city. It's been one of the main engines to make the economy strong in D.C.
"But he built it when the city couldn't do what just about every other city does for a team: build a building. Let's be honest, the reason I was sold the Washington Capitals and had the opportunity to buy the rest was he couldn't handle the investments needed in the hockey team, the basketball team and the building.
"And so the building has a big mortgage on it. The city built a $700 million baseball stadium, and the rent that's paid is this much," he said, bringing his fingers closely together. "The state of Maryland built lots of stadiums for teams, and they pay this much in rent. We have this arena, and it has this much," he said, holding his arms wide apart.
"Hence, we have to pay off a mortgage. Hence, we have to book the arena. It has to be a hot arena so we can generate revenues. That's what's happened. Now, with that as backdrop, I think that I will try to make the Wizards, the Capitals and the Mystics the primary tenants. We'll schedule them first, and then we'll build around them. We have a [strong enough] partnership and balance sheet that we can over-index that way, but you need to understand, there's a price to pay for having that building built with private money.
"And sometimes, I don't like the ignorance inherent in some of the statements that are made. Because Mr. Pollin built that building, and there's a sign called Pollin Way, but it's under-appreciated as an asset to have three professional sports teams in downtown and now have the Shakespeare Theater across the street, and that hub of people all moving, 79,000 people moved into Washington, D.C. last year from the suburbs and from out of town. And I really believe that a lot of it has to do with Mr. Pollin's vision of building that building, and having the gumption to live with that decision."
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