Capital Centre's new name, USAir Arena, wasn't exactly rolling off Washington area tongues after it was officially announced yesterday.

"Forget about it -- it's too long," said Warner Wolf, WUSA-TV (Channel 9) sportscaster. "I'll probably just end up saying, 'In Landover . . . ' "

"They can call it anything they like, but we don't have to," said WRC-TV (Channel 4) sportscaster George Michael. "They've got a real selling job to do."

"I'll never stop calling it the Cap Centre," vowed John Lally, a real estate lawyer in Prince George's County. "You always refer to things the way you learn them."

"Who wants to go somewhere that sounds like an airport?" complained Alan Ahalt, a bartender at Joe Theismann's restaurant in Alexandria. "It's just another example of the overcommercialization of sports."

Jeff Austin, a vice president with Advantage International, a prominent Washington-based sports marketing and representation firm, predicted that any fan disenchantment with the new name will be short-lived.

"What fans really want is a team that is going to win," he said.

Brian J. Murphy, a publisher of the Sports Marketing Letter in Westport, Conn., agreed that the name change shouldn't bother fans much. He said arenas nationwide are increasingly looking to corporate sponsorship for infusions of cash. Sponsors, on the other hand, hope to become fixtures in their communities and win the hearts of local consumers.

"I don't think fans mind as long as they don't start putting {corporate} names on the back of the ballplayers," Murphy said. "People probably wouldn't like to call {baseball's} Seattle Mariners the Seattle Nintendos."

Robin Ficker, a Montgomery County lawyer who has earned a national reputation as Capital Centre's most vocal heckler at Washington Bullets basketball games, said he can live with the new name, especially if it leads Landover officials to reverse recent increases in ticket prices.

"What goes up must come down, right?" Ficker said.

Ficker said the USAir name sounds like something Chicago would use to honor Bulls basketball star Michael Jordan, whose high-flying abilities have earned him the nickname "Air Jordan."

"I'd rather we called it 'Pervis's Place' " in honor of Bullets star Pervis Ellison, Ficker quipped.

"Maybe it will help us get Michael Jordan," Lally said hopefully.

Abe Pollin, who owns the Bullets, the Washington Capitals hockey team and a two-thirds share of the arena, wouldn't say yesterday whether lower ticket prices are in the offing. In fact, he would not detail any of the coming fan benefits from sponsorship except to say the deal will help finance renovations at the 20-year-old sports and entertainment center.

The privately owned Capital Centre, which seats about 19,000, opened in December 1973 and cost about $18 million to build.

The arena sits on 75 acres owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, and the Prince George's County government spent about $2.7 million in road and sewer improvements at the time of its construction.

Additionally, in the mid-1980s, county officials agreed to temporarily suspend a tax on tickets to help keep the Capitals in the area. In return for the help, Pollin said yesterday that the arena had paid $50 million in various taxes over the years and had helped spur economic development in the area.

Still, the name change caught Prince George's Council member Sue V. Mills by surprise yesterday. The Democrat said she and her council colleagues should have had some input, given their past support.

"I always wanted Prince George's in the name," Mills said.

Sportscaster Wolf said he couldn't begrudge Pollin for making the change. "If someone offered me $1 million a year to change my name, I'd do it too," Wolf said.