March 25, 2022
Entertainment and Sports Arena (Capacity: 4,111)
Capital City Go-Go vs Lakeland Magic
Final Score: 120 – 82
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. In addition, DC is home to 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 newest facility is the Entertainment and Sports Arena, which opened in 2018. You would think they could have came up with a better name before a corporate one took over (it is often abbreviated to the ESA). The arena is home to the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the G-League’s Capital City Go-Go. We saw the latter, a franchise that began play the same year as the arena opened. The team has had mediocre results since inception, however they are poised to make their first playoff appearance this year.
Prestige Ranking: 2.5 out of 5
ESA is east of the River in the Southeast portion of DC, within the Congress Heights neighborhood. Congress Heights sits between a military base and the generally undesirable Anacostia section. The immediate area is made up of mostly housing complexes and apartment buildings. It’s certainly not a part of DC that you go out of your way to see. Here and there, you’ll find an IHOP or Popeyes type of place. At least the heart of the city is just a short Metro ride away. The arena setting is unique because it is on the campus of St. Elizabeths, a former psychiatric hospital complex built in the 1800s. Despite eventual advancements, early and mid-20th century treatments that were tried not just here, but everywhere on institution patients is just horrifically sad, especially with what was done to LGTBQs. A small section remains for mental illness, otherwise the rest of the complex has been redesignated for other uses (like the headquarters of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard) or rebuilt. That includes the arena on the East campus and a bunch of new apartment complexes right across the street.
Location Ranking: 4 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
The main mode of transportation in the region is Mass Transit, particularly the efficient Metro trains. St Elizabeths is served by the Green Line as the Congress Heights station is just a 5-minute walk to the arena. If you chose to drive, Southeast Washington is not as daunting as it would be if you were going to the sports facilities on the other side of the river closer to Downtown. I-295 (Anacostia Freeway) and I-495 (the Beltway) are the primary highways that serve the area. It’ll take 5-10 minutes using local streets to then reach the area. There are two available parking lots, the Blue one right next to the building and the Green one, a cheaper, but longer walk away. Neither are large as total capacity seems to be well under 1,000 cars, which is surprising because it seems they had the room. There also is street parking, however, it is quite confusing because meters say you need to pay in the evening, however you do not as it is free (I asked two staff members to make sure). This fact is certainly not made clear anywhere. As for traffic, it’s limited as it relates to the game, just be aware of regional traffic that can be heavy at times.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 5.5 out of 8
The exterior fits in very well with the other surrounding buildings that make up St. Elizabeths. The most prominent feature is the top two-thirds of the front wall as metal panels with a terra-cotta color palate are made up of three tones that perfectly compliment the red brick buildings nearby. Light colored brick also is featured along the bottom third of the building. The overall shape is generally square and glass windows/entrances can be found in various spots. A subtle arena name is at the top of each entrance. Overall, the understated exterior is perfect for the location and it is a very inviting welcome to the event.
Exterior Ranking: 9 out of 10
For a newer arena this size, the concourse is on the smaller side, punctuated by the fact that there is no grand entrance or dedicated open space. It does have a clean look to it and the mostly blue walls provide a decent visual. Team displays and character are lacking though. Large glass windows are also found on the east end of the building, which gives a peak to the outside. Windows of a different kind are cut out along the wall that separates the seating bowl, making it a partially open concourse. On the other side of the arena, there is a walkway, but you can’t use it as a cut-through thanks to the cameras set up.
Concourse Ranking: 2.5 out of 5
Concession stands were limited to one on this night (sufficient for the crowd), assuring a small variety. At least it wasn’t just the basics as you could get a Crabcake Sandwich, a Fried Chicken Sandwich or a Turkey Sandwich. No Burgers or Pizza, though Hot Dogs and Fries were available. Also surprising, was the lack of snack options (popcorn, peanuts, candy). Beer, wine and a mixed drink could also be had with limited choices.
Food Ranking: 4 out of 8
It’s a little bit of a shock to the system to walk into a new arena and see an essentially empty side. Even though there are pull-out bleachers, they are folded up for the Go-Go and a floor “VIP” section is in its place with sofas and table tops. This seems to be the only specialty seating as there are no suites. Above that is a walkway with game cameras, then a wall. Regular seating is found on the other three sides as the seating structure is in the form of the letter C. They use this unique set-up to make concerts more intimate and it indeed does the job in that regard. For basketball, it’s completely fine as well. Seats are blue and they are adequate in space and width. There are cup holders and a little bit of padding on the back. Sightlines are decent and they are even better in the upper bowl. Unfortunately, this was closed off for our game. I hate when teams do this! This 200 level is close to the court and there are “wings” (corner seating sections) which help in that aforementioned concert set-up.
Interior Ranking: 7 out of 14
In place of a center-hung scoreboard are two large video screens at each end. Game video and replays are at the center of the screen while the bottom has digital game information. Sometimes they put ads on the side of the screen. Size and clarity is really good. This is an instance where I miss the scoreboard at center because it would help the otherwise blah view of looking at nothing-ness on the other side. In terms of scoreboards, there are also a couple of helpful screens on the empty side façade which include plenty of player stats.
Scoreboard Ranking: 3 out of 4
You wouldn’t know that the Go-Go even play here until you get to looking at the actual court design. That seems to be typical treatment of minor league basketball. The Mystics do get a large championship banner for their 2019 title and on the concourse, a display honors the season ticket holders that have been there from the beginning.
Displays Ranking: 0.5 out of 6
If you can find a spot along the street, free parking is possible. Otherwise, expect a hefty $10 – $20 charge for use of the parking lots. Tickets are priced well as they are only $15 and it is highly advisable to try the box office in an attempt to avoid the $10 Ticketmaster fee. Concessions are expensive, but not quite as obnoxious as other DC venues. A “Specialty” Hot Dog goes for $8 and a Chicken Tender / Fries combo is $13.50. Bottled water is over $5 and a beer is $9.
Cost Ranking: 6.5 out of 8
It was a sparse crowd on this Friday Night as there were maybe 500 on hand. Attendance data is very limited for the G-League and they really don’t do many favors by so closely aligning themselves with the parent city/NBA team as there is not much attachment to local teams. As you would expect in DC, the team gets lost amongst all the other big sports teams. However, there is a lot of opportunity by marketing to these neighborhoods in the Southeast part of the District that this is their team. You can feel that being done by a little bit, but it’d be nice to see more of it and perhaps include more youth group outings and even giveaways to get young fans hooked at the intimacy of the game here.
Fan Support Ranking: 1.5 out of 8
It was a very chill crowd and occasionally we’d get some clapping. The in-game host did a good job with entertainment and trying to provide some energy, which did periodically work. You’ll also hear some Go-Go music, which is a nice touch.
Atmosphere Ranking: 4 out of 14
The Go-Go are of course affiliated with the Washington Wizards and the ESA also contains a practice facility for the NBA team…..Now where did that crazy nickname come from? Go-Go is a type of music that was popular for a time in DC. The Capital City part is different though because I’ve never heard the area referred to as that…..The ESA was built at a cost of $65 million, most of it with taxpayer money……WTF is this bizarre free throw rule? Apparently in the G-League, when you go to the free throw line, you only get one shot and it is worth two points (except in the last two minutes). This apparently is an idea to speed up the game. It’s strange and if you want to speed up the game, how about the referees stop reviewing every questionable play and trust their actual first call!
While the Go-Go played great-great, it was the horrendous three-point shooting by Lakeland that was the story. They went an incredibly bad 2 for 25 from beyond the arc in the first half. This helped Capital City build a huge halftime lead that grew into their largest margin of victory (38) in franchise history. Joel Ayayi had 10 points and 11 assists.