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WASHINGTON PREPARES TO OPEN NEWEST MONUMENT: MCI CENTER
Published December 1, 1997
The opening of the MCI Center on Tuesday night was featured in a special section in Sunday's WASHINGTON POST. For Washington Sports Chair Abe Pollin, construction of the new facility was a "huge challenge ... a four-year struggle, slowed for a half year by contaminated soil, a paralyzing snowstorm and asbestos," according to Heath & Montgomery. Other setbacks included "so-called 'smart seats' that didn't work" and a successful lawsuit by the Paralyzed Veterans of America to increase the number of seats for wheelchair-bound spectators. Heath & Montgomery: "Through it all, Pollin has been financially stretched, keeping US Airways Arena going, signing basketball and hockey players to million-dollar contracts and footing the bill for the construction of the MCI Center." Pollin: "I've got everything I've ever done in my life on the line. I've pledged everything. My advisers think I'm nuts. But I wanted to do something special for my town" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/30). Pollin added in a meeting with POST editors that tickets to sports events are "too expensive" and that leagues should examine player salaries "as a way to curtail" admission prices. Pollin: "It bothers me enormously that no longer can a family of four see a game. What's happened is the [player] salaries are so high, we have to keep raising ticket prices. I don't want to raise my prices again" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/30). NOTES: With traffic a concern, MCI Center execs hope to keep the number of vehicles "under" 5,000 for each game. Pollin said that he hopes that half the fans, or 10,000 people, will take the Metro....The arena has 109 luxury suites costing $100-175,000 a year, with a minimum five-year lease. Those in luxury suites or the 3,000 premium club seats "will be provided separate parking, enter a separate entrance and dine in separate restaurants barred to the arena's 15,680 ordinary ticket holders."....Barry Silberman, President of Centre Management, which runs the MCI Center, said that the facility will host "about 200 events" a year. ...Pollin said that despite MCI's recent merger with WorldCom, he "expects" the name to remain MCI Center in accordance with the 13-year, $44M deal (WASHINGTON POST, 11/30)....Some 700 tickets for Tuesday's opener, the Sonics- Wizards on TNT, "were released for sale yesterday." The game had been listed as a sellout (WASHINGTON POST, 12/1).