Wizards owner helped transform D.C. – The Post
D.C. sports icon, Wizards owner Pollin dead at 85 – The Wash. Times
Abe Pollin, a juggernaut of Washington D.C. sports, died yesterday at age 85. Pollin was the owner of the Washington Wizards (nee Bullets) of the NBA and Verizon Center. He had founded the Washington Capitals of the NHL and Washington Mystics of the WNBA as well, later selling them to Lincoln Holdings, Ted Leonsis managing partner. He also built the Capital Centre, since demolished, the first of two arenas he financed and built for his teams.
Pollin was a construction magnate who had moved to D.C. as an eight year old. He bought the Baltimore Bullets in 1964 and become sole owner in 1968. In 1973, he opened Capital Centre in Landover, Prince George’s County, Md., moving the Bullets to just outside the Beltway. In 1974, he founded the Capitals, despite never seeing a hockey game. Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder had given Pollin 600-to-1 odds on landing the NHL expansion franchise.
In 1978, the Bullets, led by Wes Unseld won the NBA title for the first and to date only time, beating the Seattle SuperSonics. That would be the high water mark for Pollin’s teams in competition. The lack of championships led a to mixed legacy for Pollin. He was often thought of, by Caps fans in particular, as unwilling to spend the money to win. The marketing of the Bullets was directed drawing fans to see the visitors, rather than the home team. Caps fans felt as though Pollin cared little for that team and those feelings only intensified when Pollin sold busloads worth of tickets to Detroit Red Wings fans during the lone Stanley Cup appearance. The Bullets went a decade between playoff appearances and about two decades between playoff series wins. Pollin also changed the name of the basketball team to Wizards after his friend Israeli prime minster Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down.
In 1999, he sold the Captials to Leonsis’ Lincoln Holdings. The transaction also included 44% of the Wizards and Verizon Center. In 2000, Pollin and Leonsis brought Michael Jordan to Washington to be an executive and for two years had Jordan as a player. After Jordan ended his playing days, Pollin did not retain Jordan’s services as an executive, a shocking move. Pollin rebounded by hiring Ernie Grunfeld who assembled the Wizards into a playoff team. Pollin has also been criticized for the terms of the lease with the Caps and the conditions of the ice.
While Pollin’s legacy is mixed in the management of his franchises, his philanthropy at home and aboard and development of arenas is universally praised. He built Verizon Center with his own money (the District spent millions on infrastructure), setting off a building boom in the old Chinatown neighborhood. His decision to put a new arena in the District will ultimately by his greatest legacy. Gallery Place/Chinatown turned into a bustling neighborhood and led to more building and investment downtown. When Verizon Center (then MCI Center) opened in 1997, 7th Street was barren, now it is thriving along with the rest ofthe neighborhood. The return of baseball to Washington and Nationals Park happened in large part because Pollin proved what a magnet a sporting venue could be. That will be his greatest legacy.
MICHAEL WILBON – A man who reached out to others – The Post
COLBERT KING – The endless gifts of Abe Pollin – The Post
MIKE WISE – Long-standing loyalty – The Post
EDITORIAL – Abe Pollin – The Post
Knott: Pollin placed his faith in his team, town – The Wash. Times
Abe Pollin, Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals, Verizon Center, dc