D.C. okays bigger signs at Verizon Center


The exterior of the Verizon Center along Seventh Street NW. (Toni L. Sandys/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Over the past year, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, led by majority owner Ted Leonsis, has been pushing for larger, attention-getting — and potentially lucrative — signs outside the Verizon Center.

Soon, the company will get its wish.

The District City Council approved legislation July 10 in a 10-0 vote allowing a total of nine permits for signs on the exterior of the Verizon Center.

Out: the current Geico video board.

In: Digital signs on the 7th Street NW façade and a wraparound sign on the corner of 7th and F streets NW. No digital signs are planned for 6th Street NW.

Size: 23-feet-by-45-feet.

Monumental’s next step is to apply to the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs for the permits, and then Leonsis & Co. are home free.

Leonsis made the case that the signs will bring in valuable revenue, which in turn will be used by his ownership group to put better teams on the ice and hardwood, for his NHL Capitals and NBA Wizards.

“It will generate substantial revenue for us that will go toward the operation of our teams and it will generate substantial tax revenue for the city” of $2 million a year, Leonsis said. “It will better enable us to compete with teams who play in municipally-funded stadiums and arenas.”

Leonsis compromised on key issues, such as turning the signs off at midnight, reducing the light intensity and agreeing not to allow tobacco products or political advertising.

The Buzz hears:

Murry N. Gunty’s Chevy Chase-based Blackstreet Capital Management has bought a controlling interest in a casual dining Italian restaurant chain based in San Francisco called Pasta Pomodoro, which had $30 million in revenue last year. Gunty also bought Red Seal, a Greenwood, S.C.-based company that builds meters that measure the flow of liquid propane gas.

Industry Dive, a Dupont Circle start-up that provides business intelligence tools, has created dashboards for professionals in the education, utility, waste management, marketing and construction industries. The dashboards are mobile Web sites and applications that prioritize breaking industry news, social media commentary and research reports.

Arlington-based Applied Predictive Technologies is expanding, with 52 new hires this summer. That will boost APT’s head count to 200. APT is in the final stages of doubling the size of its Ballston offices to accommodate its growing local workforce. The data firm just added CVS to its client list, which already includes Wal-Mart, Wendy’s, TD Canada Trust and Holiday Inn. APT software helps companies predict their customers’ buying habits.

George Stamas, with the Washington office of Kirkland & Ellis, was with former president Bill Clinton in Greece at a meeting of the Hellenic Initiative, a charity whose leaders include Stamas, Chicago money manager John Calamos and Dow Chemical chief executive Andrew Liveris. The group, which tries to help cash-strapped Greek charities, also wants to help the country make structural reforms including promoting foreign investment and improving tax collections to raise revenues.

In an e-mail to The Buzz, Stamas called Clinton’s talk “inspiring, insightful and strategic.”

Sheila C. Johnson marked roughly one year until the opening of her Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg last week with a reception co-hosted by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and first lady Maureen McDonnell. The event celebrated Northern Virginia wineries and farmers. The 168-room resort is 65 percent complete and scheduled to open in August 2013.

Anthony Lanier’s Squash on Fire is hosting its third Women’s International Squash Player’s Association tournament at the Ritz Carlton’s Sports Club/LA from Aug. 16 through 19, with $15,000 in prize money. Lanier, whose EastBanc development owns several Georgetown properties, is building a 20,000-square-foot indoor squash facility that opens in 2015. The competitors next month will include Lanier’s daughter, Camille, who is one of the nation’s top squash players.

David Keuhner’s Destination Cellars, which creates “wine experiences” for oenophiles, is coming out with 250 cases of the 2010 Destination Pinot Noir from the Santa Maria Valley in California in September. The wine was personally selected by Destination’s sommelier, Sean Meyer, formerly of the famed Bouchon Bistro and The French Laundry in Napa Valley. Make sure you just sip; the price is $39 a bottle and there is a limited supply.

Factoid of the Week

1,550That’s how many people attended the Economic Club of Washington’s 25th anniversary dinner in June, which featured an interview with legendary investor (and Washington Post Co. shareholder) Warren Buffett. That number is nearly four times the club’s average attendance of 350 to 400 over the last year. There have been other spikes as well: Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd Blankfein drew 450 earlier this month, and former Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt drew 600 at his lunch last year.

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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