- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2006

The Washington Wizards yesterday played their last game in the MCI Center.

The basketball team hasn’t folded and the building is not being destroyed, but the Wizards’ next home game on Sunday will be at the renamed Verizon Center.

Verizon Communications’ purchase of MCI Inc. gained final approval in December, and the company announced last month that the 20,000-seat sports and entertainment facility — owned by Washington Sports and Entertainment — officially would become the Verizon Center.

“Over the last several days, much of the signage both inside and outside of the arena has been changed over to Verizon Center, with the finishing touches being applied this weekend,” Susan O’Malley, president of Washington Sports and Entertainment, said yesterday. “When Sunday’s Wizards-versus-Sacramento game tips off, the Verizon Center name will be official.”

Washington Sports and Entertainment Chairman Abe Pollin also owns the Wizards.

“Having an arena in a city as important as Washington is especially important now because we intend to be an innovation leader and want to remind people in [the city] and inside the Beltway of that,” said Jim Smith, a Verizon spokesman.

Mr. Smith did not know how much Verizon was spending on the name change, but said it was minimal compared with the $44 million that MCI paid for a 20-year licensing agreement in 1995, two years before the building opened.

On Monday, the Washington Capitals are scheduled to play the first National Hockey League game at the Verizon Center, which also is home to the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team.

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