Monday, January 29, 2007

Built Arena with Own Money

And now is asking for help renovating it (for a winning team), a scenario (both of them) many would like to see replicated here.

Pollin Asks D.C. to Pay for Verizon Center Renovations
By Nikita Stewart and Thomas Heath
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, January 27, 2007

The owner of the Washington Wizards has asked the District for $50 million to renovate Verizon Center, and city officials are discussing whether to honor the request and pay for it with a tax increase on tickets, officials said yesterday.

Wizards owner Abe Pollin, who built the $220 million sports arena with his own money in Chinatown nearly a decade ago, wants the extra money to upgrade all or some of its 110 luxury suites and replace its outdated scoreboard, District officials said.

Those and other improvements would be designed to attract special events, such as championship basketball and hockey games.

Pollin's company argues that the city should give the arena a financial boost as a reward for its role as a catalyst of the downtown renaissance, city officials said. The 20,674-seat Verizon Center has served as the anchor of the Chinatown area's revival, a transformation into a bustling hub for restaurants and night life.

Even without arena improvements, Billboard magazine ranked Verizon Center ninth worldwide in 2005 among all venues, according to information on the arena's Web site. Verizon Center has drawn 2.5 million fans to more than 220 events, including Wizards, Capitals and Mystics games, yearly.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) hasn't taken a stand on Pollin's request. The city went through a prolonged and bitter debate over spending at least $611 million of public funds for a new baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals in Southeast, a project that Fenty opposed.

The request for funding came as the Wizards were in first place in the NBA's Eastern Conference, and star guard Gilbert Arenas was voted Thursday onto the all-star team as a starter. The Washington franchise has not been in first place this late in a season since 1978-79, when the team, then called the Bullets, won the Atlantic Division by seven games over Philadelphia.