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GUEST COLUMN: MCI Center
Here is my review of MCI Center, based on my "view from the top" in Section 400.
Transportation (Getting in and out): The relevent comparison here is Madison Square Garden in NY and I think MCI Center comes out looking pretty good. The corridors were crowded, but they did move. I have been in many a standstill at MSG (i.e., Madison Square Garden). They do need to turn the escalators OFF at the end of the game. This is a safety concern and someone on my escalator actually pressed the emergency stop. I'm sure this lesson was learned. Metro was crowded, but not terrible and one nice thing is that 1/3 of each train gets off at Metro Center to transfer so the train is only packed for 1 minute. There were MANY cops on duty both outside the arena and inside Metro to direct people. Grade: B+
Sightlines: My seats are high, but right on the center court stripe. I did walk around the arena and was very impressed. Even behind the basket and in the corners, you feel like you are part of the action. I didn't feel (as I often did at USAir) that the upper deck was a lot more asleep than the folks down by the court. Lighting, of course, is a HUGE improvement. One minor gripe is that, being at center court, I have no view of the 24 second clock. Hopefully, they can find room on the scorboard for it. Grade: B+
Bells and Whistles: This is where the hype was and, it would appear on first glance, that it was justified. The seats are very comfortable (with cupholders) and legroom is improved. The scoreboard and video screen is awesome. Timeouts, team fouls and player stats (for those on the court) are continuously tracked and the video screen plays all the action as if you were watching on TV. (Believe me, this is helpful if you are on the 400 level). Velocity Grill is great although I doubt they will continue with the open bar and free appetizers on a regular basis. It really looks like a comfortable place to hang out. Though it wasn't open, the sports museum looks very cool and I am going to try it out this weekend. The Modell's store is nice and didn't appear to be overpriced. Oh yeah, the bathrooms were (for now) clean and had self-flushing johns ( a big +). Grade: A
Food: This is where some improvement is needed. One good thing is, should it NOT improve, there are other options for eating before and after games. Lines were pretty long and Papa John's (probably the best menu option) ran out of pizza at several locations. Major complaint at concession stands was that the food was lukewarm at best and that the stations weren't equipped with microwaves to heat them up. This MUST be improved. Also, no vendors came through the stands. Very odd. Sometimes you just want a quick hotdog. Selection was EXCELLENT. Prices were high, but no higher than USAir arena or JKC. Grade: C
Well, there you have it. For you folks out of town, I'll let you know if some improvements are made. Overall grade is an A- because the flaws are definitely correctable. It is a great place. And we WON.
Edward Katz 3 December 1997