Driving to Capital Centre is easy. All you have to do is get into your car, get onto the Beltway and wait. Sooner or later, Capital Centre will pull up alongside you.
But seeing the Washington Bullets by car is not a cheap undertaking. As much as $5 worth of gas can be expended on a drive from Northern Virginia and, with parking costing another $3, you can be out eight bucks before you even get into the building.
You will not be alone in your expenditures, however. It is estimated that 98 percent of the fans at Bullets games drive to them, with most coming from the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. Most get to Capital Centre by the Beltway, many getting off at exit 17-A east and following Landover Road to the arena.
A random check of license plates at Sunday's game with the New York Knicks turned up very few cars from the District.
Abe Pollin risked losing out on some in-town fans when he elected to build his arena in the Maryland woods 13 years ago, but he stood to capture the suburban market of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Although attendance declined steadily for six years until last season, team officials continue to defend Capital Centre's location as convenient and accessible.
"This is a terrific spot," said Jerry Sachs, the Bullets' executive vice president. "It's probably the best we could have picked. Forty-five minutes is not an unrealistic drive for anybody."
Dick Glover, the team's chief administrative officer, said the Bullets never have considered playing downtown, such as at the D.C. Convention Center. "It's not an option," he said. "We have a lease here." Team owner Pollin, of course, also owns Capital Centre.
Some of the 11,341 who showed up Sunday night for the Bullets-Knicks game said driving doesn't bother them.
"I've got to drive two hours to see a baseball game and I can't even get a football ticket, so a one-hour drive is not that unreasonable to me," said Pat Purcell, a computer operator from Manassas.
"If the traffic were really bad, it might bug me more to drive," said Louise Resson, an accountant from Gaithersburg. "But if I really push it, I can be here in 25 minutes sometimes."
"I drive a truck for a living," said Bob Thompson of the District. "What's another half-hour to me?"
"I ride Metro to and from work every day of the week anyway," said Michael Ritchey, a Silver Spring lawyer. "I actually look forward to driving once in a while."
It has been a long time since fans flocked to Capital Centre in numbers significant enough to cause traffic jams on a regular basis. Waits of up to 30 minutes were common along the entrance to Harry S. Truman Drive off Central Avenue during the NBA championship series in 1978-79, but even then, traffic accidents were few.
"In terms of traffic flow, convenience and accessibility," said Lt. Donald Downs of the Prince George's County Police, "you can't beat the Capital Centre."