Washington Wizards majority owner Abe Pollin, who has been working with the NBA for more than a year to bring an all-star game to MCI Center, officially was granted the 2001 event last night and said he is planning to remain the team's majority owner for many years.
Pollin, who sold the Washington Capitals and a minority share of the Wizards to America Online executive Ted Leonsis last spring, said he will not give up control of the franchise until well after 2001.
"I'll be here 10 or 15 years at least as long as the good Lord keeps me healthy," Pollin said. "I have no plans of going anywhere."
NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik made the official announcement about the game last night. The 2001 all-star activities will be held Feb. 9-11. It will be the first NBA all-star game held at the two-year-old facility and the third hosted by the Washington franchise and Pollin.
"The MCI Center is one of the great sports facilities and we're thrilled about bringing the event here," Granik said at a news conference before last night's Wizards-Kings game.
Pollin said he began lobbying league officials for an all-star game when he was in the planning stages of building an arena in downtown Washington. For the past year, Pollin and the league have been working on bringing the game to Washington, reserving hotel rooms and other facilities.
Granik declined to speculate on the economic potential of the all-star game. However, he said more than 5,000 hotel rooms were used at the last all-star game two seasons ago in New York.
It is believed that the 2002 All-Star Game will be awarded to Philadelphia, which was scheduled to host last season's event before it was canceled because of the lockout.
"This has been in the works for some time," Granik said. "The process takes a couple of years. In the near future you'll hear something about Philadelphia."
Pollin was asked if it would be equally or more satisfying if the Wizards would host a playoff game before the 2001 season.
"The Wizards will be in the playoffs," Pollin said. "Don't give up on the Wizards."
Pollin also addressed the team's attendance woes. "We'd like to have more [fans attending] and we will have more when the team starts winning, which they will when they start gelling together. As they gel, we'll win. As we win, more and more folks will come. We're obviously looking forward to the future."
There has been speculation that after hosting the All-Star Game, Pollin would sell the remaining shares of the Wizards in the ensuing months. Pollin, though, has other plans.
"The NBA has been a special part of my life for 35 years and the all-star game is a special part of the NBA," Pollin said. "It's an honor for me as the owner of this building to have the best event that the NBA has to offer, which is an all-star game."