People have flocked to Washington, D.C. to visit artifacts of history and culture in museums for years. The city also has a rich tradition of professional, college and high school sports.
Now people can find all these items enclosed in an ultra-modern sports mecca at the corner of 7th and F streets in Chinatown. The MCI Center is an unprecedented achievement – a stunning mix of sports, culture, entertainment.
The MCI Center opened recently as the new home for the Capitals and Wizards, as well as Georgetown basketball. The teams moved downtown from USAirways Arena in Landover, Md. Fans said no comparison exists between the two arenas.
“The MCI Center is a lot better. It’s a major step up,” said Craig Sly of Lexington Park, Md.
Sly, from his seat on level one of the four-level arena, said he had no problem watching the game.
“If something happens at the far end of the floor, the big screen catches it all,” Sly said.
The four-sided, 12-by-16-foot telescreen suspended from the roof is the largest video scoreboard in an arena. The screen’s brightness is nine times brighter than USAirways’ scoreboard.
Chris Veney of Washington, D.C. said the view was “pretty good” from his seat at the summit of the stadium, 100 feet above the event floor. “I can see the game clearly. It feels like I’m right down there on the floor.”
University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball coach Fran Dunphy, whose team played at the MCI Center in the Franklin National Bank Classic Dec. 7-8, said he was impressed with the stadium because it was built upward, instead of outward. Dunphy said this allows better viewing.
The MCI Center contains an innovative collection of galleries and restaurants. The MCI National Sports Gallery is 25,000 square feet of sports memorabilia and interactive games.
Visitors can touch a bat used by Babe Ruth, see a game jersey worn by Jim Brown, play the 18th hole at the Harbour Town Golf Course and play H-O-R-S-E against the Wizards’ Chris Webber.
The Discovery Channel exhibit will open in mid-February. It will boast an assortment of exhibits of world cultures, astronomy, science and technology, and prehistoric artifacts.
The MCI Center seats 20,000 people and is located at the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro stop. The building, which contains 16,000 tons of steel and nearly 10,000 gallons of paint, was erected in just over two years by the Clark Construction Group – the contractor that built Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Jack Kent Cooke Stadium and USAirways Arena.
“The layout is good. Even though it can hold 20,000 people, it’s roomy and easy to get in and out of,” Horacio Chacon of Rockville, Md. said.
This article appeared in the January 22, 1998 issue of the Hatchet.