People often think that Abe and I are these “big” visionaries; that we had this dream of “bringing life” to a part of the city, Washington, DC, that was long burnt out and neglected for almost thirty years. Well, since I was part of the decision to build the Verizon Center, in that location, let me tell you how it really happened.
I know that parts of the story are out there but the whole story is simple and good. Simply put, we wanted to create a large entertainment center, like the Capital Centre, but newer, better, bigger in the city of Washington. In fact, that is where we hoped to build twenty nine years earlier but the city couldn’t manage it. So the Cap Centre was built, but on the periphery of Washington.
Still, for the first time in D.C. history, we had a building that could house four professional sports team and a host of major events for the first time including inaugural events. The longing remained, however, to be in D.C. and we never gave up.
Finally, when the D.C. government was amenable and accessible, the time was right. All that was left was to find the right location.
The key word here is “location.” Since we had always been in the business of finding top locations for the buildings we constructed, we searched for several years for what this building would require. By now, after twenty five years of experience at the Cap Centre — we knew what that was. We knew what we needed to do both internally and externally; for the fans’ experience inside the building and for the fans arriving and leaving the building.
Particularly important was just getting there. Then once inside, we wanted to provide the best entertainment and comfort in the industry. And, what fun it was to do this again, but better!
But, the best story for me to tell about choosing that location is one about a visit that my son, Robert, made to Washington asking us to show him where we wanted to build. It was mid-day and we drove him downtown to what would later become the site of Verizon Center. As we pulled up to the area and parked, he suggested that we get out of the car and walk around to get a better sense of the neighborhood. Are you kidding?
Abe and I both said at the same time: “You don’t get out of the car and walk around in this neighborhood.”
“Even in the middle of the day?” he asked. We both replied emphatically, “Yes!”
But, Robert is quite persuasive; “Oh, c’mon, Mom and Dad,” so we did with a lot of trepidation. But, as we did, I noticed the National Gallery a few blocks away, the Smithsonian, just behind us. We then realized what a marvelous location this was and it was also on top of the Metro. That trip out of the car settled the location. How good it was!
Abe and I were extremely proud every time we drove to the game to see the lights, the people….the cars! And, with so many people taking public transportation — when we left the game, we didn’t have to fight traffic waiting to come out of the parking lot.
How good it is! We never dreamed of the major impact choosing this location would have. Is it visionary? Or is it experience?
Either way, it did bring life to the city.