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Verizon Center to become Capital One Arena, starting now

Verizon Center during the 2016 ACC tournament. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Washington’s downtown sports arena is changing names, effective immediately. Monumental Sports and Entertainment will make the switch official on Wednesday, announcing that Verizon Center will now be known as Capital One Arena. The signage and branding makeover will happen this fall, but there’s already a new logo and a third name for the Chinatown venue, which opened as the MCI Center in the winter of 1997.

The previous 20-year naming rights arrangement was negotiated by former Wizards and Capitals owner Abe Pollin, and current owner Ted Leonsis has said repeatedly that he was seeking a more team-friendly deal. The Verizon deal was set to expire in 2018, but Capital One’s involvement accelerated the schedule.

Financial details were not released, but the deal is worth $100 million over 10 years, according to a source familiar with the arrangement, who confirmed an earlier Bloomberg report. That’s believed to be a significant jump over what Monumental received per year from the previous deal.

By way of comparison, Barclays pays a reported $10 million a year for naming rights to the home of the Brooklyn Nets, TD Garden a reported $6 million a year in Boston, and Prudential more than $5 million a year in Newark. Golden 1 Credit Union is paying a reported $6 million a year for the naming rights in Sacramento, while JPMorgan Chase signed a 20-year naming rights deal for the yet-to-be-opened Golden State Warriors arena worth a reported $15 million a year. Many previous arena naming-rights deals that are nearing their expiration dates are worth far less a year, according to a Sports Business Journal analysis.

Monumental will also announce a separate $40 million investment in the privately owned arena, with the money going toward projects such as Monumental360 — a data-based effort to analyze fan preferences — and a new point-of sale system, meant to create more efficient lines. That system will likely offer discounts to Capital One cardholders.

The 20,000-seat downtown venue became Verizon Center in 2006, and was acquired by Leonsis in 2010. He had been searching for a new naming-rights deal for more than two years, telling Post reporters and editors last year that the mortgage costs about $36 million a year, and that he has “the worst building deal in professional sports.” Those concerns could be ameliorated by the new deal, significant as the Wizards are set to go over the NBA’s luxury-tax line for the first time.

Capital One, headquartered in McLean, has already been a significant sponsor for the Wizards and Caps. Richard Fairbank — the company’s founder, chairman and chief executive — is a partner in Monumental, although he was not part of this negotiation, according to a source familiar with the arrangement.

Aside from hosting Caps and Wizards games and a variety of concerts and events, the arena is also home to Leonsis’s new Arena Football League team and Georgetown basketball. The Mystics have long played downtown but are scheduled to move to a new facility in Southeast in 2018.

Some fans had already imagined a return to the “Cap Centre,” the nickname of the old Prince George’s County home for the Wizards and Capitals. But the decision to instead use the Capital One Arena moniker means the venue’s nickname has yet to be decided. Will it be Cap One? Cap Arena? The Caipirinha? The C-O-A? The Cap Centre? The Wallet?

“Capital One Arena,” Leonsis wrote in a Wednesday blog post, “sounds fantastic,” adding that the bank “shares our commitment to economic growth, philanthropy and community here in the DMV.”

“Capital One Arena is one of the few privately owned arenas in the country, and throughout its ownership, MSE has made over $100 million in investments to ensure the arena remains a best-in-class facility,” he also wrote. “I’m pleased to say we are making a further down payment on that commitment with this announcement today.”

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