The MCI Arena Timeline: 1993-1997
Compiled by Steve Fox
Washingtonpost.com Sports Staff
Tuesday, November 25, 1997
Abe Pollin's search for a new arena began in late 1993, shortly after renaming the Capital Centre to USAir Arena. Initially, it was a toss-up as to what Pollin would do. Speculation abounded as to whether he would renovate USAir for his two teams the NBA's Washington Bullets and the NHL's Washington Capitals or relocate to another arena.
Much of the debate centered on not surprisingly money. Driving Pollin's desire to get out of his situation at USAir was the realization that the business of sports entertainment was changing and that his arena, while considered state-of-the-art in the 1970s was no longer so and was not making money.
Post File Photo
The long saga comes to an end next Tuesday, when the Wizards and Capitals leave Landover for their new home at the MCI Center.
Read Post's four-year coverage of the problems faced by Pollin as the Bullets and Capitals searched for a new home:
1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997
- Cooke, Pollin Discuss Proposed Sports Facility
Former Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke speaks with Abe Pollin about the possibilities of moving the Bullets and Capitals to Laurel. Cooke envisions a sports complex including a new football stadium, a new multi-purpose arena and the exiting Laurel Race Course.
Friday, December 10, 1993.
- Teams May Move From USAir Arena
Pollin steps up his search for a new home for his teams by hiring Legg Mason Inc., a Baltimore-based
investment and consulting company, to explore the financial feasibility
of moving the teams to somewhere else
in the region.
Sunday, December 26, 1993.
- Pollin Teams Snubbed in Annapolis
Pollin's attempts to enlist state funding to help pay for a building replacing USAir Arena are not met receptively by Maryland state legislators. Lawmakers are instead preoccupied with the Redskins proposed move to Laurel.
Thursday, December 30, 1993.
- Teams May Move, but Glendening's Quiet
The loss of the two most celebrated commercial enterprises in Prince George's County the Bullets and Capitals is not being met by the usual aggressive courting by County Executive Parris N. Glendening.
Thursday, January 27, 1994.
- Pollin's Empire Goes Searching for Better Days
With the NBA and the NHL in the midst of popularity booms, and cities from Cleveland and Portland building plush new arenas, Pollin and others begin to realize that the Bullets need a new image beginning with a new home. Thursday, February 10, 1994.
- District, Maryland Face Off for New Sports Arena
Weeks of quiet negotiations come to an end, with District and Maryland officials begin a public wooing campaign of Pollin, with competing plans for a state-of-the-art arena.
Friday, February 12, 1994.
- Schaefer Says Maryland Will Help Build Arena
Responding to overtures by District officials, then-Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer says the state will pay at least part of the cost of a new arena in Prince George's County.
Friday, February 11, 1994.
- Attempt Made to Buy Caps, Bullets, Arena
The largest individual stockholder of the Texas Rangers says he tried to buy the Bullets, Capitals and USAir Arena in 1993 for about $170 million but that his offer was rejected. Saturday, February 19, 1994.
- Fairfax Woos Owner of Bullets, Caps
Virginia officials jump into the fray, with Fairfax County officials trying to entice Pollin with the promise of a new arena in a massive development in Springfield.
Thursday, February 24, 1994.
- Maryland Officials Delay Decision on Funding
Maryland legislators hesitate, saying they want to complete a major study of the project before making a decision on whether to fund a new facility to replace USAir Arena.
Thursday, March 3, 1994.
- D.C. May Have Deal for Downtown Arena
District business leaders move quickly to develop a plan before Maryland and Virginia, and work out a plan with Pollin to move the Bullets and Capitals to a soaring, glass-fronted $150 million arena in downtown Washington.
Tuesday, June 7, 1994.
- Md. Running Fast Break on D.C. Arena
Maryland state officials step up their plans to build a new arena in Landover, hoping that they will be able to beat the District to the punch.
Tuesday, June 8, 1994.
- Pumping New Blood to Heart of a City
Plans to move the Bullets and Capitals from the suburbs into the heart of downtown is viewed as part of a reverse trend in where sports owners are opting to build new arenas on city sites.
Tuesday, June 12, 1994.
- D.C. Gets 30-Day Shot at Completing Arena Deal
Things move quickly for Pollin and District officials, who are able to lock Pollin into exclusive negotiations with the city as the business community searches for government backing for the $150 million project.
Tuesday, June 21, 1994.
- Pollin Says He'll Pay for Sports Complex District
In an announcement providing a tremendous boost to a beleaguered city, Pollin says he will use private money to build a major sports complex in downtown Washington.
Thursday, December 29, 1994.
- Players Say a New Arena Can Symbolize a New Era
Bullets' players, who travel the country playing in new arenas in cities like Phoenix and Cleveland, are excited at the idea of playing in a new arena in Washington.
Thursday, December 29, 1994.
- Loss of Franchises May Ground USAir Arena
With Pollin planning to move the Bullets and Capitals into a new downtown arena, questions arise as to whether the sports palace by the Beltway will become a white elephant.
Friday, December 30, 1994.
- Pollin's Building, D.C.'s Future
"I will build this building and it will open here," states Pollin, as he formally announces that the Bullets and Capitals will move into a new downtown arena.
Sunday, January 1, 1995.
- MCI Name to Go on New Facility
Continuing the trend of attaching corporate names to new arenas, it's revealed that the new downtown arena will be named after the MCI Communications Corp.
Saturday, June 3, 1995.
- Pollin Plans High-Tech D.C. Sports Facility
The MCI Center is quickly touted as the
first of a new generation of sports venues that will marry live
entertainment and the latest tools of the information age.
Thursday, June 8, 1995.
- Pollin Shows Plan for Arena He Insists Will Be Built
Pollin says "there are no longer any doubts" about his plan to build a $175 million arena near Chinatown, and he shows off a final design for an entertainment center he believes will revitalize a dying downtown.
Thursday, Sept. 28, 1995.
- MCI Arena Planners Take Their Best Shot and Score
A model of the MCI Arena unveiled by Pollin shows that one of the best decisions the architects made
was not to disguise the building's true nature.
Thursday, Sept. 28, 1995.
- At Arena, Business Will Be A Star Player
Luxury suites for top executives or anyone who can afford the expensive seats will
be available for basketball and hockey games at the new MCI Center. Monday, Oct. 30, 1995.
- Building an Arena Inch by Inch
In the summer of 1996, all that you could see at the corner of Sixth and Seventh streets NW, over the Gallery Place Metro station was a 50-foot-deep hole. An estimated 1,200 people were involved in the construction. Tuesday, June 18, 1996.
- New Venues for Basketball, Hockey, Football
Washington's major sports teams were providing plenty of construction jobs, as workers plugged away at building the new Jack Kent Cooke Stadium and the MCI Center. Sunday, Dec. 1, 1996.
- Construction Boom Puts Old Arenas to Creative Use
More than two dozen new sports venues have been built in the U.S. and Canada since 1990, and about 18 more are in some stage of planning, leaving a lot of old venues abandoned.
Friday, Feb. 21, 1997.
- Fans Must Pay the Ticket
A new arena and large salaries don't come cheap, as Washington-area fans learn when the Wizards raise individual ticket prices to a range of $19 to $75 from a 1996-97 range of $12 to $50, while the Capitals' prices went to a range of $19 to $60 from a 1996-97 structure of $12 to $45.
Sunday, March 30, 1997.
- Arena Promises Construction Jobs for D.C. Residents
MCI Center executives promise to fulfill the requirement that 51 percent of all new construction jobs District residents by the time the structure is completed. Friday, June 27, 1997.
- Arena to Open Doors on Dec. 2
Hopes to open up the MCI Center in October in time for either the start of the NHL or NBA seasons fall by the wayside an Pollin instead sets the opening for Dec. 2, on the 24th anniversary of the opening of the US Airways Arena. Wednesday, July 23, 1997.
- Ficker Won't Be the Mouth That Roars at MCI Center
Robin Ficker, Washington's notorious fan, whose heckling of opposing players forced the NBA to change its rules on fan behavior, will not be in the stands on a regular basis at the new home of the Washington Wizards downtown. Saturday, August 23, 1997.
- Clear and Visible Signs of the Times
Much of the millions of dollars of advertising stuffed into the MCI Center is not necessarily targeted towards those watching the game, but, rather, is occupying space that will hopefully catch a ride on television when the cameras pan over their strategically placed signs.
Sunday, Aug. 24, 1997, 1997.
- D.C. Hopes Arena Is Just A Warm-Up
The opening of the MCI Center offers the rare opportunity to transform downtown Washington into a bustling regional entertainment center. But eight weeks before the center's scheduled opening, there is no single, comprehensive plan for revitalizing downtown.
Monday, Oct. 13, 1997.
- Washington Is No. 1 for High-Cost Tickets
A report factoring in costs to see the Washington Wizards this year shows that the Washington area is the most expensive in the country for sports fans.
Friday, Oct. 31, 1997.
- District to Lease Skybox for Barry at MCI Center
Mayor Marion Barry creates a huge furor when it's reported that he's entered into a $625,000 five-year lease for 12 luxury box seats at the MCI Center arena with the approval of the D.C. financial control board.
Friday, Nov. 14, 1997.
- In a Reversal, Brimmer Scraps Skybox Lease
Prompted by an outraged congressional leader's threat to block the deal, D.C. financial control board Chairman Andrew F. Brimmer withdraws approval of a $625,000 lease of a luxury suite requested by Mayor Marion Barry at the MCI Center.
Saturday, Nov. 15, 1997.
- MCI Center, Metro Station Stage Debut
After four years and $200 million, thousands of fans check out every detail of the new MCI Center, and most people are pleased with the new accommodations. Monday, Nov. 17, 1997.
- MCI Center's Winning Ways
The MCI Center proves the old adage: Location, location, location. In deciding to build the $200 million structure on a key site in the heart of the old downtown, Pollin and District authorities are doing the entire region a good turn.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 1997.
- Inside and Out, Merchants Await MCI Center Crowds
The merchants and business owners on the streets surrounding the MCI Center are excited about the business that the MCI Center is expected to create. While the restaurants inside the MCI Center have the inside track, there are hopes that there will be plenty of customer to go around.
Monday, Nov. 24, 1997.
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company
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