It has been an incredibly faced-paced, exciting and rewarding three-plus months since we formed Monumental Sports & Entertainment and acquired the Washington Wizards, Verizon Center and the local Ticketmaster franchise. My partners and I are fortunate to have such a passionate and dedicated staff as we prepare to usher in many of the changes our fans have suggested. We all have worked incredibly hard as we prepare for the upcoming NHL and NBA seasons.At the June news conference announcing the acquisitions, I informed our fans that I had opened my TheWashWiz@aol.com account and invited them to share their thoughts, concerns and wishes, much like Capitals fans have been doing for years. I had planned to use those emails to augment the list of changes I had hoped to enact. But I didn’t anticipate the tremendous response I would receive from Wizards fans as well as additional suggestions from Capitals and Mystics fans and others who attend Verizon Center events. It was staggering, eye-opening and rewarding. I’ve received more than 4,000 emails - some lengthy, some short, some wide-ranging, some direct.
In addition to all the emails, I have attended many events that included current plan-holders, potential plan-holders and plan-holders who have failed to renew this year. I’ve met with business partners and those considering a partnership with us. I have hosted town-hall meetings with hundreds of people at a time, been in small-group discussions, connected with others via phone and encountered many of you in one-on-one settings around town or while attending other events. In all, I believe I had more than 10,000 interactions in the first 100 days of our ownership.
So we took all of this feedback and we got to work. As you may recall, originally I blogged about 101 things that were brought to my attention shortly after the news conference, but that list grew rapidly. We already have changed 101 things in 101 days - and more. Bottom line - you are demanding a double-bottom line business from us. You want us to do well but you also want us to be good citizens. You want us to build playoff contending teams. You want us to compete for and win championships. You want us to do it in a way that makes you proud. We hear you!
List of 101 Signs of Visible Change
Perhaps the most visible change to date was the switch to George Mason University for Wizards training camp. One of the things you asked for was an opportunity for a greater connection with the team, so we listened and moved our training camp from its traditional site near Richmond to George Mason, here in Northern Virginia. We started training camp with Wizards Midnight Tip-off - I’m told it’s the first time an event like this has happened in the NBA. Our players and coaches were really excited and nearly 4,000 fans showed up at the Patriot Center. George Mason president Dr. Alan Merten and basketball coach Jim Larranaga have been exceptional hosts. It was a fantastic way to hit the court running.
One of the common themes I heard in your comments was the need to freshen up and spruce up the Verizon Center. We hear you, and we had similar thoughts. We have more ideas and plans in the works, but here are a few of the more significant and notable projects we’ve already completed:
• We painted the arena’s parking garage red, white and blue (and it’s a pretty big garage).
• Then we decided that wasn’t enough, so we painted the stairs in the Verizon Center red. There are literally thousands of stairs in the Verizon Center, but I think you’ll agree that it looks great.
• We changed the game-night attire for all of our ushers, and their new uniforms are fashionable and professional - they really look fantastic.
• We undertook a major project in the Acela Club, building what we refer to as new “ledge seats” where fans can sit and watch the games while enjoying the great food and beverages that are served up there.
• We’ve invested significantly in a new lighting system and an upgraded sound system. We have a great atmosphere now, especially for Capitals games, but these additions really are going to help improve the game experience and make it even more exciting and enjoyable. We also have invested in Crowd Wave technology that will get our fans much more involved in our game entertainment.
• Many of you complained about the quality as well as the time it took to order and purchase your food. So we’ve taken steps to speed up the process at every food stand in the building. We also have put a select number of vendors with food and beverages back in the stands so that you don’t have to leave your seats. We’ve taken steps to make sure the beer is cold (do you know we serve nearly 50 brands of beer?), the pizza is hot and the popcorn is fresh. We’ve added a number of kosher, gluten-free, vegetarian and even vegan food offerings. We also have added a text service that allows fans to give us immediate feedback on how we are doing.
• Importantly, we’ve redoubled our efforts to ensure that the concession areas are clean and inviting. I even joined our cleaning staff to make sure I understood how it all works - the same day that President Obama visited us at a Mystics game.
• We’ve added LED displays at courtside for Wizards games that look great and also allowed us to offer an additional eight courtside “dream seats.” We will be offering free food and drink for our VIP seat-holders, and we’ve built a number of new VIP areas for those fans. The one I’m most excited about is the new Owner’s Club, where those VIP seat-holders will be able to mingle during and after games.
These are only a few of the changes we’ve made, and we’re not even close to being done. Take a look at our To-Do List and you can see the items that are checked off as well as other items that are in progress. There are still changes around the corner, too, like reinstituting the Wizards red, white and blue uniforms, but not everything can be completed in 101 days. Dick Patrick, Monumental Sports & Entertainment COO and president of the Capitals, and his staff have been working extremely hard on all of these changes, and we think when you come to Verizon Center for a game or concert, you definitely will notice and appreciate their hard work.
I admire the level of engagement demonstrated by our fans as I assembled the list, and I do firmly believe in our collective wisdom. We are in this together - to improve your experience at Verizon Center and to build championship-caliber teams that will make all of us proud.
This is a process, and our staff has worked extremely hard to make as many of these changes as quickly as possible. But please be assured that we won’t stop listening. Obtaining your feedback makes all of us better and puts us in a position to better serve you. So I am always cognizant of that, no matter how many changes we have made or may make, I will believe in the wisdom of our crowds.
So take a look at the list and see what changes will impact you the most. You asked. We listened, and we are doing our best to deliver.