Opening Night Is A Treat For the Wizards and Their Fans
20,173 fans arrived to Verizon Center on Saturday night to watch the Wizards home opener against the New Jersey Nets, however, the sell-out crowd also had the opportunity to celebrate Halloween with the Wizards.
"With opening night landing on Halloween it just made sense to give a Halloween theme to our home opener," said Danny Zollars, Senior Director of Game Operations. "Our fans are extremely excited to have Gilbert back on the court and we thought the masks would be a great way to show their support for him while still keeping that Halloween feel."
Fans entered the arena to a fog machine, Halloween music, haunted house characters and a giveaway of 10,000 Arenas masks, the Verizon Center was not only host to the first home game of the season, but also the biggest Halloween trick or treating party in the District.
"When Hershey's found out what we were doing they got involved and gave us 75,000 pieces of candy for our younger fans so they could have a safe area to trick or treat in the arena," said Zollars. "Overall things went great and our fans really responded with enthusiasm to everything we had going on tonight."
Fans were also encouraged to get into the spirit of the season, as the Wizards gave away two season tickets to the fan dressed up in the best costume. Giving a little local feeling to his costume, Scott Allen, dressed up as a metro stop and instantly won the support of the sell-out crowd winning him the honor of best costume and newest season ticket holder.
"This idea actually came into my head last year for my office Halloween party. Just riding the metro all the time you see that map in your head and I decided to make a costume out of it." said Allen. "It was awesome. I was coming to the Wizards game and I found out about the contest and I'm just so excited to win and get two free season tickets."
The pregame holiday atmosphere carried over to the game, as the Wizards played in-game videos on the jumbotron that followed with the Halloween theme. The video (on the right) had the players tell the fans what their favorite costume growing up was.
While the game operations team had some tricks up their sleeve all night to keep the fans entertained off the court, the ultimate treat came from the players and the player on the mask, as Gilbert Arenas and the Wizards gave the capacity crowd plenty to cheer about during their 123-104 win over the Nets.
"I think people in this town appreciate people that play hard and play the right way," said Head Coach Flip Saunders. "I think our crowd got into the game. Any time you play well and the crowd stands up and shows their appreciation that means a lot to the guys on the court."