Monumental Sports & Entertainment is engaged in active conversations with Capital One about renaming Verizon Center, and a person familiar with the deal suggested that an announcement could come by next week. The existing naming rights deal with Verizon, which predated Ted Leonsis’s ownership of the downtown arena, was set to expire in 2018, and Leonsis had been vocal about his desire to land a more team-friendly arrangement.
A new Capital One Center would bring back distinct memories of Capital Centre, the Prince George’s County arena that was once home to the Washington Capitals and then-Washington Bullets.
Domain Name Wire reported this week that Capital One has registered more than 50 domain names that suggested the financial corporation could be taking over the naming rights, including “Cap1centerdc.com” and “capitalonearenadc.com.” News that a deal was nearing completion was first reported by 106.7 The Fan.
The 20,000-seat venue in Chinatown opened in December 1997 as MCI Center and became Verizon Center in 2006 after Verizon Communications purchased MCI out of bankruptcy. Leonsis purchased 100 percent of the Capitals and 44 percent of the Washington Wizards and Verizon Center from the late Abe Pollin in 1999 and acquired the remaining stakes in 2010. Largely because of a mortgage that costs Leonsis an estimated $36 million annually, which in November he called “the worst building deal in professional sports,” Leonsis estimated a loss of $40 million in 2016 for Monumental Sports & Entertainment.
The soon-to-be-available naming rights for the building could offer a financial windfall to alleviate some of those losses. The Capitals typically spend to the ceiling of the NHL’s $75 million salary cap, and for the first time in their history, the Wizards will spend over the luxury-tax line this season.
A deal with Capital One, which is headquartered in McLean, would be another significant milestone in a transformative year for Monumental Sports, which has purchased a developmental-league basketball team, two Arena League football teams and an e-Sports team, has continued development of its new Ward 8 practice facility and arena, launched the subscription Monumental Network and completed a new TV rights deal with CSN.
Capital One’s interest, the source suggested, would link two local companies that both have business and philanthropic ties to the D.C. region. The bank — which is building a new headquarters in Tysons Corner and has spent heavily on sports advertising in recent years — was drawn to the global reach of the D.C. market, according to the person familiar with the deal. Capital One has already been a major corporate sponsor of both the Capitals and the Wizards, and Richard Fairbank — the company’s founder, chairman and chief executive — is a partner in Monumental, although he recused himself and has not been part of this conversation, according to the source.
Last month, Leonsis appeared on Forbes’ Sports Money podcast, on which he said his company was “in negotiations with several partners. Verizon’s been a great partner. … That was a 20-year deal, and they’ve been fantastic. But you’re right. The city has blossomed … and D.C. has become one of the great vibrant communities.”