Ted Leonsis has been the owner of the Washington Capitals since 1999, when he purchased the team from Abe Pollin. He also has right of first refusal to buy the NBA's Wizards, WNBA's Mystics and MCI Center when Pollin decides to sell the properties.
Leonsis, an executive with America Online, was an interested observer to recent negotiations that brought the Montreal Expos to Washington. The NHL is in the midst of a lockout until a new labor agreement is reached.
GS: What impact do you expect the Washington baseball team to have on your franchise?
Leonsis: Our season starts in October and ends in April, so there is not much overlap unless we make the playoffs, which I hope we do. The more sports in town the better for all of us. I'm happy for the city and we welcome the competition for the sports dollar. I do wish some of the guarantees made to Peter Angelos might have come my way.
GS: Will you operate differently with a new franchise in town?
Leonsis: When the NHL lockout is over, we'll have to begin the job of re-branding our sport. We'll have to target our market closer and more aggressively as the battle for the sports dollar increases. Nothing in sports surprises me anymore and what we have now is an opportunity to buy a baseball team. This is going to be a long, hard road for whomever wins the bidding. RFK Stadium is not the best place for this team, but it will have to suffice until the new stadium is built.
GS: What is the key to a successful franchise in Washington?
Leonsis: Your greatest challenge is the Redskins because they have done a remarkable job of connecting with the community, but they only have eight home games in the regular season to accomplish this connection. We have to connect 40 nights a year. When we play Friday, Saturday and Sunday we do very well. But a Tuesday night game against Calgary, when it's snowing outside, is a hard sell for us.
Doubling that number to 80 games during the summer is hard. The team will have to get good to succeed. When we do well, we do fine. If not, we suffer.