Washington Wizards and Verizon Center owner Abe Pollin passed today at age 85. He formerly owned both the Washington Bullets and Capitals, selling the Capitals to Ted Leonsis in 1999.
Leonsis subsequently formed Lincoln Holdings LLC, an investment partnership which holds 100 percent of the Caps and 44 percent of Washington Sports & Entertainment — the business umbrella for the Wizards, the WNBA’s Mystics, and Verizon Center. That stake in Washington Sports affords Mr. Leonsis the right of first refusal on the sale of individual teams or assets — including Verizon Center.
It’s a new era in Washington wintertime sports.
Update: Here are some news reports from WRC-TV. First, an interview Lindsay Czarniak did with Irene Pollin (Abe’s wife) late last month, talking about how they met and what their legacy might be in DC.
Next, Tom Sherwood’s report from this evening
I hope you’ll all indulge the length of this comment, but I think it’s important. I have lived in DC for my entire life, and I have a great deal of pride in that fact. I love this city dearly.
During a period of madness I watched as my city collapsed under dwindling population, corrupt government, appathetic federal involvement, and the plague of crack. In short, my town had become a national joke.
It was in this environment that Mr. Pollin decided to build the finest arena in sports in a bankrupt town with his own money. That gesture was a huge part, if not the largest part, of saving our city. It made it OK for other businesses to invest in the city. It brought people back to downtown. It was a huge gesture of faith in our town that made us feel that maybe we turned a corner.
Tonight, on my way home from work, I pulled over my car and wept for an old man who I’ve never met. I don’t care what his contributions to sports were, and in DC they were without measure, his contributions to my hometown were even greater.
On the night they opened the then MCI Center, the crowd in the upper deck spontaneously broke into a cheer for Mr. Pollin that I would like to end with here:
“Thank you, Abe.”
A personal observation: Had Pollin not brought the Caps’ arena to downtown, there’s no way I’d have been a season ticketholder. 41 home games out in Landover — for someone who takes Metro to work downtown and lives in Bethesda? Oh, I’d still go to some games, but the whole season? I think not. So thank you, Mr. Pollin.