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Riding the Wizards Bench December

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My Impressions Of The New MCI Center

I've had the chance to view 2 games at MCI Center thus far. I'm a greatly impressed. In fact, there is only one true negative I have out of the whole experience, which I'll get ot later. In short:

Transportation: One negative about Bullets/Wizards games (besides the losing) have always been the ride to and from USAir Arena. I live in Northern Virginia and would drive the southern half of the Beltway to get ot the games. At least that part of the Beltway is easier to drive than the northern half.

Getting out of games has always been the worst. At least when they changed the traffic patterns 2 years ago, it made getting out of games much easier. (It used to be much worse.)

Now, it's easy. Hop on the Orange line of the Metro (subway) system, and get off at Metro Center. Then walk the 5 blocks to the arena. It could be a problem in the rain, but then I'll just ride a little farther, change to the Yellow or Green lines, and take the direct entrance into the arena. So simple, I LOVE IT!

External Architecture: In a word, it's beautiful in an understated way. In other words, it blends in so well with the surrounding neighborhood, you're not sure where it is except for the additional bright lights at night. It's not taller than any other building surrounding it, nor does it have any piece stick out like a sore thumb. A superb addition to the neighborhood.

Interior layout: Well, it certainly is different. Lots of bright colors decorating the walls, advertisements, and other surfaces inside. A couple of stores, several food service locations, and a couple restaurants.

Also, it doesn't seem like there's enough room in the halls to handle everyone. They seem smaller. But part of that is because the sight lines are not as long as the sight lines in USAir Arena. Those concourses were long and straight, while the halls continually curve at MCI Center. But the crowds flow easily, and that's what is critical before and after games.

Food: I've only tried a little there. It's expensive, but typical for food at a sporting venue. I tried the nachos grande and liked them a lot - a lot of food, enough to stuff you for $5.25.

Sightlines: Before the Seattle game, I wandered up to the upper deck to check out the view while players were warming up. Yes, you are up high, but the visibility is good. You still see the game at a decent distance - the players didn't seem like ants on the court. Plus, there are plenty of electronic boards for stats (and a very nice big-screen board with replays, plus live coverage of the game) that are easily visible from these seats. I wouldn't guess there's a bad seat on this level.

My seats are in section 110, row F. And the sightlines are great. In fact, I seem closer to the court than before, despite having equivalent seats. That probably mostly comes from the fact that the seats aren't as far vertically from the court as they were at USAir Arena. No complaints from here.

Seats: My BIG complaint! I'm 6-foot, 6-inches tall with long legs. I don't fit, plain and simple. I'm jammed in just exactly (I hopefully have a photo, when I get a chance to develop it), knees up against the seat in front of me. And I can't turn my knees to either side because the new cupholders are in both gaps. Further, the seats aren't as comfortable as Edward Katz found them - after both games, I woke up the following morning with a very stiff back. Unfortunately, there's not much I can do about that.

That's pretty much it for my summary. A great arena. Yeah, it was obvious in certain ways that it wasn't quite done (some external lighted signs were not up yet, some entire rows were missing cupholders), but Abe Pollin and everyone who worked with him to make this happen should be congratulated on building the finest basketball arena in the NBA. About that, I have no doubt.

Just get me some leg room...

wtf 8 December 1997

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