Mayor, Council Battle Over Wizards Tickets

A documentary about Wizards owner Abe Pollin, above, was included in a gift to partygoers.
A documentary about Wizards owner Abe Pollin, above, was included in a gift to partygoers. (By Charles Dharapak -- Associated Press)
By Nikita Stewart and David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 6, 2007

Who's sitting in the catbird seat -- the city's 24-seat luxury suite at the Verizon Center with an unobstructed view of Gilbert Arenas and other Washington Wizards?

Nobody. For now.

Representatives of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and the D.C. Council are fighting over who should get to sit in the lavish box given to the city rent-free by Wizards' owner Abe Pollin. It's equipped with televisions, a food service area and a private bathroom.

It was Pollin's goodwill gesture to the city after the council approved giving $50 million to renovate the Verizon Center this year. The $50 million was the city's goodwill gesture to Pollin for building the arena credited with helping to revive downtown Washington.

But the goodwill between Fenty and the council has been waning in recent weeks. Rather than get in the middle, a politically savvy employee thought twice about handing over the tickets to Fenty folks who had planned to pick up the hot items last week. Something just didn't seem right. That exchange could have boxed the council out of the box. So the savvy employee contacted appropriate parties, and the tussle over the tickets was on.

A few council members didn't hesitate to demand their fair share.

At RFK Stadium, the 40 or so tickets for the Washington Nationals and D.C. United were split between the mayor, who received a third, and the 13 council members. The tickets are distributed by the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission.

The Wizards tickets are being handled by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. That would be Deputy Mayor Neil O. Albert, who answers to Fenty.

As of Tuesday, there was no resolution to the issue.

Those council members aware of the tiff have been trying to keep it on the down low because it seems petty in comparison to bigger issues, such as the closing of 23 schools or the tax scandal.

But losing seats in the box could mark another lost battle for control. One council member said, "It's the principle."

First the schools, now the Wizards tickets. What's next?

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