The Capitals Maryland To DC Geographical Transformation Changed Everything

Capitals move from Landover to WashingtonIn the wake of the Washington Capitals first Stanley Cup championship, in the 43-year history of the franchise, it is worth looking back at how much the geographical makeup of the organization has experienced a total metamorphosis, during the course of the last 20 years.

From 1974 through 1997, the Caps played home games at the Capital Centre, located 10 miles east of downtown Washington, in the Prince George’s County city of Landover, Maryland. Later named the USAir Arena and US Airways Arena, the now demolished 18,000-seat venue existed just off the Capital Beltway, 34 miles from downtown Baltimore and 22 miles from the Maryland capital city of Annapolis.

Capital Centre and US Airways Arena

Back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, many believed that automobile accessible stadiums, surrounded by large parking lots, was the key to drawing spectators to games. Ironically, FedEx Field (home of the Redskins since 1997), sits just across I-495 from the former home of the Caps and Bullets/Wizards.

The formerly held suburban location belief only currently exists in the NFL, since games are played mostly on Sunday, along with the fact that tailgating is such a big part of the experience.

In 1997, the Caps moved to the heart of downtown DC, with the opening of the MCI Center, which later became the Verizon Center and now the Capital One Arena (pictured upper right). The Caps now 20-year home sits nine blocks east of the White House and eight blocks northwest of the United States Capitol.

When it came to practicing, prior to 2006, the newly crowned champs trained at the now Mount Vernon (VA) RECenter (11 miles south of downtown DC), followed by a 15-year stint at the Piney Orchard Ice Arena, located 28 miles northeast of downtown DC, in Odenton, Maryland.

So, from its first season of existence in 1974, until the opening of the MCI Center in 1997, the hockey club was an exclusively suburban based franchise. Even after moving downtown, the Caps continued to train way out of town in Odenton.

Beginning in 2006, the team moved its practice facilities and administrative offices to the state-of-the-art Kettler Capitals Iceplex, located six miles west of downtown DC, in the densely populated city of Arlington, Virginia, which possesses a population of 230,000.

Kettler Capitals IcePlex

Arlington Ballston Neighborhood

For the last 12 years, the team has become a downtown DC/Northern Virginia focused organization, as opposed to a spread-out exurban Maryland based squad.  The results have been a significant boost in popularity, both in terms of attendance and television viewership, along with the franchise becoming far more attractive to free agents.

Wednesday night’s championship is the culmination of this ongoing metamorphosis.

These days, the Capitals are a really big deal in a large and highly significant city and metropolitan area. Moving to the heart of our nation’s capital and headquartering the team just outside of town has made all the difference in the world.