Capital One Arena

March 26, 2022
Capital One Arena (Capacity: 18,506)
Washington, DC
Washington Capitals vs New Jersey Devils
Final Score: 4 – 3

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As the capital of the United States, Washington is located in a unique District between Maryland and Virginia along the Potomac River. It is home to all three branches of government and is quite the tourist destination with iconic national monuments and a plethora of free museums. A tourist could spend days around the National Mall and we were fortunate to visit on this day because it was during the famed Cherry Blossom Festival and they were all in full bloom around the Tidal Basin. DC has a population of 650,000, with a more representative 5.8 million in the surrounding Metro area (7th largest in country). Because of all that draws people to work here, many are transplants. Sports is big in the region and the toast of the town this century has been the hockey team. They arrived in 1974 and undoubtedly their most illustrious period has been the last 15 years thanks especially to Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. During this period, they’ve annually made the playoffs and won several division titles. After many 2nd Round playoff failures, the Caps finally got over the hump in 2018, when they went on to win their first and only Stanley Cup. Games are played in Capital One Arena, a cookie-cutter mid 1990s building.
Prestige Ranking: 4.5 out of 5

Location

COA is downtown in the Chinatown / Penn Quarter area, which is less than a mile from the National Mall in the heart of DC. It has been an anchor and the main reason for the improvement of this once dilapidated and deserted area. A rare instance where the arena was a big win for a city as it was privately financed and it truly led to improved economics in the area. There is now a ton of mixed-use development in Penn Quarter and you’ll find a large assortment of pre and post-game establishments nearby (though all the good ones had too long of a wait for our attempt at dinner, even at 4 PM). Also nearby is Chinatown. However, the changes came at a price as Chinatown is just a fragment of its former self (though it wasn’t exactly thriving to a huge population before the arena opened). Signage and several shops/restaurants remain, but very few long-time natives. If you decide to bypass the Monuments and Museums further south, within walking distance of the arena you’ll find the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Fords’ Theatre and the National Building Museum.
Location Ranking: 9.5 out of 10

Accessibility / Parking

Getting to the arena by car means navigating DC’s busy, complicated streets and often horrifying traffic. It is quite daunting for out-of-towners. The main mode of transportation in the region is Mass Transit, particularly the efficient Metro trains. All lines are accessible to the arena as folks can either use the Gallery Place station or the Metro Center station. It is very easy to follow (best system in the country in my opinion). And we had no issue getting on the first train running on the Green Line just 10 minutes after the game. If you are daring enough to go by car, there are multiple parking garages in the area. Getting there is the difficult part as you’ll have to exit a highway and use many of the city’s streets.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 4 out of 8

Exterior

All the nearby development leads to the arena getting lost in its surroundings. The large “Capital One Arena” signs and occasional team murals / lighted billboards are the only giveaways that you’re nearing a sports facility. Where there are no windows, the building walls are made up of a tan brick or an off-white concrete. With so many interesting buildings, including the Art Museum across the street, it would have been nice to pay homage to that. A few little touches that were nice included dual signage featuring Chinese letters and the small entrance marquis which had theatre-like signage for what is coming up.
Exterior Ranking: 5 out of 10

Concourse

The arena is on a tight footprint as all of the outside entrances dump you right into the circular walkways around the 100-level. These are the widest of the three in the arena, but they’re not that wide. The design features white walls and occasional splashes of red and blue. Slats line the ceiling, perhaps an effort to block the ugly guts above. It’s interesting to see the entrances to suites at this level as well. Overall, lines for concessions and bathrooms are notable, but not excessive. Same thing for jam-ups at intermission. What is nice is that the 200-level has a concourse that is mostly open to the public. A few one-way escalators can bring you up here. The 400-level concourse is a little skinnier. Various areas have windows, which allow for a nice peek outside. While there are a few lounges in the arena, there is nothing for the public.
Concourse Ranking: 2.5 out of 5

Food

Food options have what you would expect, including some jazzed up burgers and chicken sandwiches. Notables include a Cookie Dough stand, BBQ from Rocklands Pearl and four Asian Fusion options from ChiKo. I’d like to see more Chinese food stands given the location and a Ben’s Chili Bowl would be nice. For beer, you have to search a little for craft options, but it is worth it when you find them because there are some good ones. There is even one brewed for the team (Devils Backbone Capit-Ale).
Food Ranking: 6 out of 8

Interior

The seating bowl is a standard oval with nothing special or unique about it. It is large for what that is worth. There are three decks of seating and it’s rare to see that middle deck be so expansive. At least, it is not a club area and is open to the public (though nearly as pricy as the 100-level seats). With the distribution of seats for each level being nearly even, that may have contributed to the upper deck (400s) having a sightline that is less than ideal as the head of a fan in front of me often got in the way of me seeing the goal mouth. Individual black chairs are comfortable with their cushion, but I did find them to be quite narrow (even for a skinny guy like me) in the 400s. Cheaper ticket, cheaper comfort level. It wasn’t an issue when checking out the 100s and the sightlines were fine too. Row height overall seemed good. A ring of luxury suites can be found at the back of the 100 and 200 levels, plus there are a couple clubs behind the end seating. Capital One signage is abundant, but the corporate name actually fits in with the team. An abundance of video screens can illuminate the arena in red, thus increasing the character of the building.
Interior Ranking: 6.5 out of 14

Scoreboard

There’s a lot to unpack here after a renovation a couple years ago. The center scoreboard is quite large, but it is thankfully not one of those ginormous rectangular boards that are the new trend. This one has a lot of components and they can seamlessly generate one continuous image if so desired. During gameplay, it is excellent as the obviously high-quality video is combined with a host of stats at the bottom, along with a live tracker of who is on the ice. The renovation also added curved boards in each corner of the arena. These are quite unnecessary. Finally, to go along with the ribbon boards on each seating deck façade, there is the “SkyRing Display”. Wrapping around the roofline of the arena is an angled video screen, similar to the ones below. It ends up being a new toy that more or less just adds some more color to the building.
Scoreboard Ranking: 4 out of 4

Displays

Around the concourse, there are a handful of partial wall displays for both the Caps and Wizards. There’s nothing big, but each display stands out in design. Hat Tricks, Player Sticks, Franchise Minorities and the 2018 Stanley Cup are the displays for the Capitals. Large player pictures are found on the 200-level concourse. Inside the arena, there are several large banners for team accomplishments. I like it and the Cup one gets its own highlighted area in the rafters (along with the lone Bullets/Wizards NBA title). Washington has four retired numbers…for now.
Displays Ranking: 3.5 out of 6

Cost

Like the rest of the league, the Caps don’t announce single-game prices. They are quite expensive from what I could find though as seats in the 100s and 200s go for over $100, while the cheapest seat in the house is $50. Add $20 to the precious Saturday Night games. On the secondary market, a Weekend or Friday Night game puts you in the $60 – $90 range just to get in the building. If you are able to avoid those prime dates, all other nights are quite affordable as there are a ton of seats under $45. In fact, this puts the Caps at 21st in the league for average Secondary Market Ticket Price (their overall Fan Cost Index though is 6th highest). If you can’t take the cheaper and easier Metro, then expect to spend $20 – $40 for parking. Concessions are high…$14 for a large beer and $8 for a hot dog.
Cost Ranking: 4.5 out of 8

Fan Support

I’ve always found the Capitals fan base to be pretty good and underrated in league circles. Now granted, this generation has been blessed with a superstar and a team in perennial contention, but I digress. The building is always packed during the playoffs and Fri/Sat Night games feature attendance that is comparatively pretty good with the rest of the league. Fans certainly “Rock The Red” as their home jersey is worn by most in attendance.
Fan Support Ranking: 7 out of 8

Atmosphere

The atmosphere for our Saturday Night game was awesome. It was probably the most fun I’ve had at a hockey as the fans were vocal, in a good mood and frequently singing along with the between-whistle music (thanks for the frequent 90s alternative songs!). They were quite loud and goals got a great reaction (though not everyone in the 400s got on their feet). Expect to hear “Ovi…Ovi…Ovi” if #8 scores. Spontaneous cheering increased in the 3rd period as frequent “Let’s Go Caps” cheers were interspersed with cheering by savvy plays. Other traditions include: shouting “Red” when that word comes up during the National Anthem and shouting “Who Cares” after the visitor’s goal scorer is announced. Then there is the pandemonium that comes during the “Unleash The Fury” video package. In the playoffs, it’s in the Top 10, maybe near Top 5 for noise. While I’ve seen a few slow starts from the crowd in the early rounds, it’s still really good and very loud at times. The word I walked away with was “Fun” after this game as my underrated feel for the atmosphere was more than justified.
Atmosphere Ranking: 12 out of 14

Other Stuff

Capital One Arena was the first professional sports facility to have a Sportsbook. Yes, we did partake….Another tenant besides the NBA and NHL is the Georgetown Hoyas, who play all their home basketball games here…..The mascot for the Capitals is an Eagle named “Slapshot”……In addition, to their 2018 appearance, the team made the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998 as well (led by Peter Bondra)……I’ve said this a lot recently, but the sound system here was very loud, to a level that was very annoying and uncomfortable. I must be getting old……”ALL CAPS” is the team’s slogan. Kinda clever.

Game

What a great game this was. The Caps were coming off a road game the previous night, while the Devils were well-rested. It showed as they controlled play at first and were rewarded with a 1-0 lead thanks to Jack Hughes. It was a 2-1 NJ lead going into the 3rd period when a Connor McMichael tip-in during a delayed penalty tied it early in the frame. Four minutes later, Nicklas Backstrom’s wrister gave the Caps the lead and this was followed by a memorable scene as fans threw hundreds of foam apples onto the ice after the goal (they were given away in celebration for his 1,000th career assist). To top it off, Ovechkin went back door for the insurance goal a few minutes later. Washington survived a late rally and hung on for the 4-3 win.

Stadium Experience Ranking: 69 out of 100

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