Why Verizon Center is poised to become a college basketball mecca

And in seemingly the time it takes to toss in a buzzer-beater three from above the key, Verizon Center has become a new star of college basketball. How so? Some big gets. And some solid speculation about more to come. For that, we have more to come. But first, this:

The House That Ted Built — abuzz and ablaze with Washington Wizards fever this week — has nailed the 2017 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament. In case you missed it, that’s no small thing for D.C., Verizon Center, Verizon Center owner Monumental Sports and Entertainment as well as Monumental Sports and Entertainment owner Ted Leonsis. It will be the first time this money-producing NCAA tournament will be played on the East Coast, hitting our town at a time when there are more, newer hotels, restaurant and retail growth spurts near Verizon Center, more conventions coming to town and a record year for tourist visits.

That’s after 17 years of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament feeding the coffers of either Chicago or Indianapolis (it will be in Chicago in 2015). Some attendance numbers: 2013 saw a record crowd of 124,000 fans attending games at Chicago’s United Center. For this year’s Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis’ Bakers Life Fieldhouse, 111,000 fans ponied up money for tickets, hotel rooms, restaurant meals and souvenirs.

Those potential numbers from hungry college basketball fans aren’t lost on those in the business of D.C. events.

“It’s always exciting to have a major conference tournament here, but with Maryland in the Big Ten, there will be more excitement,” said Greg O’Dell, president of Events DC, the city’s sports and conventions authority. “Add to that the prestige of the Big Ten, so fans of all the other schools will be coming in from outside the city.”

But there’s more for Verizon than the Big Ten, expanding its reach on the East Coast with Johns Hopkins University and Maryland in our region. The Big Ten conference is playing nice with D.C., so much that it is opening a satellite office in the District. With a huge alumni base on the East Coast willing to make a comparatively short drive to men’s college basketball tournaments, that could bring more good news to the region.

“We don’t just want to visit [the Northeast], we want to live here,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told Sports Illustrated. “This was our first opportunity to do that. We think it’s a wonderful opportunity for not just Maryland, but for expatriate Big Ten fans living on the East Coast to see great basketball in March.”

And there’s more: Informed speculation has it Verizon Center could play host to the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament, sharing it every other year with Barclays Center in Brooklyn. With the A-10 on its own growth spurt, with a lot of alums in D.C., that’s the sound of conference officials rubbing their palms together. Not to be outdone, the Atlantic Coast Conference, Maryland’s old league, is scheduled to play its tourney at Verizon Center in 2016

And that’s a lot of basketball for D.C. to absorb in any given year.

Now, if the Wizards bring home the NBA championship trophy for center court display, this bow would be tied.

Rebecca Cooper contributed to this report.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up