- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Wizards know they’ll need to build a winning team around point guard John Wall for their fans to keep coming back over the long haul, but while the rebuild will take some time, the rebrand begins right now.

In a push to excite fans for the upcoming season, the Wizards are holding their first open house Thursday at 6 p.m. at Verizon Center. Fans can get photos and autographs, tour the locker rooms and pick out their seats for next season, and experience whatever fan-friendly excitement can be generated for a team that finished 23-59.

Owner Ted Leonsis said last year that the team would return to the traditional red, white and blue color scheme, but that’s just the beginning of a complete rebranding campaign designed to ramp up the style while the Wizards rebuild the substance.

“As I stated when we bought the Wizards, it was really a total restart for us,” Leonsis said. “We closed on the acquisition and had less than 100 days to get ready for the new season. There’s a lot of work to do.”

Changing the name is unlikely, as Leonsis‘ research into the name-change process yielded numerous obstacles, but other changes already are under way.

“We have a beautiful, high-class redesign of the jerseys and of the court; new, iconic images that will work their way into everything that we’re doing, without changing the name,” Leonsis said. “I’m very happy with the work and I know our fans will be as well, because the promise that I made was that we’ll pay homage to the past and we’ll pave our own way to the future that we’re building.”

Speculation regarding the Wizards’ new look and logo was rampant a month or two ago, when a mock jersey featuring the same logo the Wizards currently have, but with a different color scheme, was released on numerous websites. Leonsis said that just makes his job harder.

“I am a little bit unhappy that there’s been lots of articles and lots of contests and lots of pixels generated and now, when we do our launch, I have to undo it,” Leonsis said. “I know that’s the world we live in, but I said that we have to let the season end and then I’ll show it. All that noise in the system was unfortunate.”

Leonsis recalls a moment of deja vu when he oversaw the same rebranding effort for the Capitals to start the 2007 season.

According to the NHL, the Capitals had the third-highest improvement in team merchandise sales that year, a 228 percent jump from the previous year.

“I hope I’ve built enough trust with people that I can say ‘Trust me, you’ll like it,’ ” Leonsis said. “I’m very comfortable in what we’ve done with the new look and feel and design. I fully expect the same success in our rebrand with the Wizards that we had with the Capitals.”