October 6th, 2010 <!-- by Ted -->
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
|You asked for (us to)…||Completed?||What we’re doing|
|1. More transparency concerning strategy and plans via more connection with fans||Frequent updates on TedsTake.com; provide public insight in team development strategy; 10,000 touch points in first 100 days|
|2. Reconnect with Gilbert Arenas||Met with Gilbert and connected in person and via
|3. Open some practice sessions to the public||Training camp held at GMU with some practice sessions and scrimmage open to the public|
|4. Visible involvement with local youth basketball||Hired a Director of Camps and Clinics|
|5. Additional benefits for season-ticket holders||VIP ticket holders get free drinks and food; improved parking|
|6. Improve game presentation and halftime entertainment||Will be showing 3D video on opening night and periodically during the season; invested in Crowd Wave technology; upgraded sound and light systems|
|7. Re-engage with alumni for more participation; launch alumni program||Launched Wizards/Bullets Alumni Association led by Bobby Dandridge|
|8. More season-ticket holder access to the owner||Have held dozens town hall meetings and other events with season-ticket holders|
|9. Create additional “dream seats” and enhance amenities||Added 8 new courtside dream seats for Wizards games; added amenities for VIP ticket holders|
|10. Different Wizards’ cheerleader and Red Rockers’ outfits||New outfits will be ready for opening night|
|11. Redesign WashingtonWizards.com; improve video options||Website redesign completed|
|12. A new public address announcer||Ralph Wesley named PA announcer|
|13. A new LED scorer’s table||Installed new scorer’s table with LED display|
|14. Additional local cable programming||Comcast SportsNet dedicated pregame shows|
|15. Improved recognition of longtime season-ticket holders||In-development|
|16. Improved quality of promotional giveaways||In-development|
|17. Renew connection with our fans in Baltimore||Working on events for Baltimore fans|
|18. Fan access to additional in-game statistical information||In-development|
|19. More organ music||More organ music|
|20. Eliminate the “Dee-Fence” chant||Eliminated|
|21. Move training camp close to D.C.||Opened local training camp at the Patriot Center (GMU) with midnight tip-off|
|22. Maintain connection to Pollin family and charities||Continued support for Abe’s Table|
|23. Develop student discount opportunities for local colleges||Will institute student rush nights|
|24. More community involvement in Virginia||George Mason University|
|25. More community involvement in Maryland||In-development|
|26. Draft and develop international players||Kevin Seraphin and Yi Jianlian|
|27. More local celebrities at games||Owners’ Club program launched|
|28. Change Wizards’ colors back to red, white and blue||In-development|
|29. Increased emphasis on the Wizards D-League team||In-development|
|30. Draft more local college players for Wizards||Under consideration|
|31. Change Wizards’ team name to Bullets||Under consideration|
|32. Increase efficiency at concession stands||Speeding up order-taking process at stands; roaming vendors|
|33. Improve arena lighting||See: No. 6|
|34. Upgrade sound system; additional speakers installed||See: No. 6|
|35. Ensure condiment containers are refilled||Instructed vendors to make sure condiment containers are never empty|
|36. Launch environmentally friendly initiatives||Capitals’ and Wizards’ media guides available in digital format; more recycling bins; looking at other Green initiatives|
|37. Fresher popcorn||Asked Aramark to make sure popcorn is always fresh|
|38. Fresher buns||See: No. 37|
|39. Warmer pizza||Turned up heat in ovens|
|40. Place renewed emphasis on general cleanliness and food safety||Working with Aramark to make Verizon Center best-in-class|
|41. Wi-Fi access||WiFi access is now available|
|42. Food and beverage vendors in stands||Beer and peanut vendors in stands at games|
|43. Colder beer||Turned up the cooling system|
|44. Red white and blue more noticeable in the area||Painted garage red, white and blue; arena steps red|
|45. Improved cell phone reception||Working with cell phone carriers to install antenna and improve reception|
|46. Better iPhone connectivity||See: No. 41|
|47. New usher uniforms||Ushers have new game-day uniforms|
|48. Improve training for ushers||In-development|
|49. Coordinate with metro to improve scheduling and avoid delays||In-development|
|50. Add historic photographs throughout arena||Have added memorabilia and photos around Verizon Center|
|51. Improve parking for plan-holders||Added parking as an amenity for VIP ticket holders|
|52. Increased number of merchandise items||In-development|
|53. Improved amenities on club level||Working with Aramark and Levy to provide additional offerings|
|54. Additional vegetarian food options||Will be offering expanded menu of vegetarian food options|
|55. Kosher food options added to menu||Offering kosher food options|
|56. “Local flavor” to be added to concession menus||In-development|
|57. Improved and upgraded suite amenities||Have upgraded a number of suites including Owner’s Suite and Owner’s Club|
|58. Cleaner mirrors in the bathrooms||More Windex issued to staff|
|59. Install beverage shelf in the men’s restrooms||Beverage shelves installed|
|60. Repair latches in the women’s restrooms||Latches fixed|
|61. Increased efforts to combat ticket scalping near arena||Working with DC police to combat problem|
|62. Paper towels always available, even if hand dryers are present||Taken steps to ensure that paper towel dispensers are re-filled during games|
|63. Replace stained and worn carpet in patron areas||Have installed new carpet where needed|
|64. Improved Verizon Center signage||New banners on exterior of building; new images depicting Capitals, Mystics and Wizards history on concourse|
|65. New banners recognizing team accomplishments||See: #64|
|66. New concourse images of current players and legends||See: #64|
|67. Added memorabilia items for display in suites||Some suites upgraded|
|68. Clean arena windows more frequently||In-development|
|69. Increased messages asking fans to be respectful of others||Done|
|70. Concession e-mail feedback option on the Verizon Center website||In-development|
|71. Paint stairs red||Thousands of stairs painted red|
|72. Paint the garage||Garage painted red, white and blue|
|73. Acela Club redesign||Completed and tickets being sold|
|74. Add ledge seating to Acela Club||Completed and tickets being sold|
|75. Add standing room only seats for Capitals||Completed and tickets being sold|
|76. New Owners’ Club suite||Owner’s Suite and Owner’s Club renovated|
|77. New executive offices||Offices renovated|
|78. Upgrade the online “will call” process||In-development|
|79. Food and beverage directory to be available online||In-development|
|80. Additional TDD offerings at the Verizon Center||In-development|
|81. Offer valet parking for VIP ticket holders||Done|
|82. Concierge service available at the Verizon Center||In-development|
|83. Owner commitment to blog regularly about all teams – Capitals, Mystics and Wizards||TedsTake.com|
|84. Combined ticket packages including Capitals, Mystics and Wizards||Available and on-sale|
|85. Partner with restaurants and businesses to provide discounts for fans||Discount coupons for season-ticket holders|
|86. The Owner’s Suite to be used for charitable purposes||Owners host many events in the suite|
|87. Keep toilet paper stock in bathrooms||Staff asked to ensure toilet paper dispensers are never empty|
|88. Less random discounting of tickets||Done|
|89. More autograph sessions||Capitals’ Convention; Wizards’ FanFest|
|90. More music variety||Done|
|91. More stand-alone concession carts||Done|
|92. Social media tweetups||Done|
|93. Improve media room||Will install new carpet, tables and chairs|
|94. Create more energy in the arena||New videos, music and technology|
|95. More equitable distribution of prizes to various sections||In-development|
|96. Create a “basketball junkies” ticket package including Wizards, Mystics and Hoyas||In-development|
|97. Additional iPhone applications||In-development|
|98. Work with city to increase visible levels of security around Verizon Center||Done|
|99. Text for service capability in arena for all fans||Done|
|100. Upgrade family rooms for players and friends||Done|
|101. New ways to clean arena by fans||In-development|
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.
Your feedback is always welcome here.