From Kent Barnes. Follow him on Twitter @KentBarnes, email him at kent[AT]borderstan.com.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for District sports fans. Cold weather means it’s time for some hockey and basketball! The Capitals and the Wizards! Or maybe just the Wizards…
For the fourth time in the last 20 years, the National Hockey League (NHL) is in the midst of a work stoppage. Each year, Alexander Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom, and the rest of your favorite Capitals take the ice under a contract called a “collective bargaining agreement” between the players and the owners. This agreement covers things like salary structure, revenue sharing and player health and safety standards.
These agreements run for a set period of time and must be renegotiated before they expire in order to avoid a work stoppage. Unfortunately, the latest deal expired on September 15th and the players and owners have yet to agree on a new one. The result? A lockout.
So what does this mean for the District? Most obviously it means hundreds of thousands of disappointed hockey fans. The Capitals are consistently among the NHL’s elite, and have made the playoffs each of the last five seasons.
More problematic is the potential impact on local businesses. The Capitals play one or two games at the Verizon Center almost every week between mid-October and mid-April. As long as the lockout continues that’s 18,000 to 35,000 fewer potential customers spending money in restaurants, bars and other local shops — and that’s thousands of dollars of revenue District business owners can’t get back.
While the Verizon Center may seem like it’s a far reach from Borderstan, the economic impact is one that affects our neighborhood. Not only is the Verizon Center just south of Shaw, an area that is under constant development, but imagine how many fans venture up to the 14th and U Street areas before and after a game for a bite to eat or a post-game celebration.
Owners and players are tentatively scheduled to meet at the negotiating table this week, but experts are not optimistic that a deal is close. For now local sports fans are to rally around the Wizards, who are off to a league-worst 0-8 start to the season.
If things keep-up as they are, it won’t be such a wonderful time of year for District sports fans or the city’s budget.
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