Will NHL, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis put the 2015 Winter Classic in Washington, D.C.?

winter-classic-logo-weagleOne of the frequent phrases that Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis used in his book The Business of Happiness and on his blog was “double bottom line.” He described it to Inc. as “be successful from a business standpoint but also be community-minded.”

Last year, I suggested that lockouts, like the one that Leonsis was apparently a hardliner on, don’t have a double bottom line. After it was over, Leonsis did not elaborate much on his role, other than he was sorry that he was not part of an earlier solution.

With the announcement that the Capitals will host the 2015 Winter Classic, Leonsis’ commitment to the double bottom line will once again be evaluated. While the Caps are hosting it, a venue has not been identified which is unusual compared to other Winter Classics. Apparently, Nationals Park, RFK Stadium and FedEx Field are under consideration. Why this was not decided as prior to the announcement is unusual and perhaps the skeptic in me sees this as a way by the NHL and Leonsis to have sites competing against each other to give the Winter Classic a sweetheart deal. Shrewd business sense, but it does not strike me as a “double bottom line” approach.

winter-classic-logo-curly-wNationals Park has the advantage of being the newest facility available with the most luxury suites and greatest merchandising and food availability. Depending on the vantage point, having a view of the Capitol dome. That’s certainly an impressive visual. Additionally, one of the minority owners of Monument Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Capitals, Wizards and Mystics, is Mark Lerner, whose family owns the Nats. Seemingly, that relationship would help make a Winter Classic at Nationals Park more likely, though the District certainly has a role as it is the owner of the ballpark.

RFK Stadium
offers a historic venue, primarily as the home of the Washington Redskins, but also the Washington Nationals and Senators and soccer at the MLS (DC United) and international level — World Cup 1994 was played there. The bouncing stands would also contribute to nostalgia and atmosphere. There are thousands of parking spaces and a nearby Metro station. The Capitol and the Washington Monument are visible from west side of the stadium, but the actual arena is completely enclosed. Another significant downside is the stadium is over 50 years and showing every one of those years.

A third choice, FedEx Field, is the largest venue in the area, boasting over 80,000 seats most of which would be aligned decently for a hockey rink, albeit far away. There is plenty of parking and a Metro station within a mile. FedEx Field is also just inside the Beltway from the Capitals original venue, the Capital Centre, but that also means it isn’t in Washington, but Landover, Md.

One troubling report is that Leonsis is also considering venues in the city of Baltimore, some 35 miles away from the District and certainly not WASHINGTON, D.C. or even near it. Nationals Park and RFK Stadium are of course, in D.C. while FedEx Field is visible from D.C. and vice versa. Simply put, if Leonsis is true to his double bottom line ethos he will publicly eliminate the possibility of a Baltimore Winter Classic for his WASHINGTON CAPITALS, even before a site is selected. The NHL needs to go along with this as well.

On a lighter note, I mocked up a couple of graphics of what I’d like to see the Winter Classic look like. Both are based on the previous Caps logo, but with red, white and blue colors. The only real difference is the choice of “W” I used in each — the Caps’ “Weagle” in one and the Nats “curly W” in the other. I think it’s safe to assume that neither is likely, especially the latter, even if the Winter Classic is at my #1 choice, Nationals Park.

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