Tuesday afternoon, RMNB was invited to tour the grand re-opening of Capital One Arena. Over the summer, the sports and entertainment complex went under a $40 million renovation. Almost every part of the arena was re-touched or reconsidered from the flooring to the cupholders.
I have to admit, I was blown away by many of the new arena’s features. The $40 million went a long way and the fan experience will improve overall. And I want to write about all of those things. I do.
But… I can’t stop thinking about this new (approximately) $10 spicy chicken sandwich they gave us. Like, you guys, this is one of the greatest sandwiches I’ve ever had. I don’t go to games early. But for now on I will be. I want to eat this sandwich for dinner as many times as humanly possible.
Seriously. It’s THAT good.
The sandwich features a fried chicken thigh brined in habanero, which gives it a little bit of a kick. I’m not a chicken thigh fan, but I couldn’t tell this wasn’t made with a chicken breast. The perfectly crispy chicken is then put on a Martin’s potato roll garnished with Momofuku butter and pickles. Sorry, Chik-Fil-A, but this chicken sandwich is Actual Perfection.
And we aren’t the only ones who adored this culinary delight. The Washington Post’s Scott Allen also raved about it in his writeup.
Vegetarian tacos (!!!!!!!!), a burger with gouda and bacon jam, and a falafel waffle are among the new Cap One concessions. @ScottSAllen says David Chang’s Fuku fried chicken sandwich was the best thing he sampled https://t.co/jmDzfehCwU pic.twitter.com/qUraPd1d1a
— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) October 9, 2018
The chicken sandwich is made by Fuku, a three-year-old cult fried chicken chain, and can be purchased at two new stalls in Section 117 and inside the PwC Club. Fuku also has standalone restaurants in New York City and Boston, but most of the locations are in different stadiums and arenas. Of the six sporting venues with Fuku offerings, Capital One Arena is only the second hockey arena.
Okay so about the actual renovations.
The physical changes inside the arena are the most noticeable, but food services got the biggest facelift over the summer. Elizabeth and myself were able to try some of the new food options in the completely redone PwC club. Sporting an entirely new look, the PwC Club has different menu options. Any guest can enjoy a meal here with the option to pay for your meal with cash.
The featured meals today included some of the new offerings that can be found exclusively in the PwC Club, but also throughout the arena in other vendor slots.
Throughout the arena, 300 new digital signs were installed to bring the grand total to 600. The new digital signage allows for further flexibility. The “Launch” test kitchen’s menu can be flipped entirely in the middle of a game. This was tested during the Stanley Cup Final, when the kitchen was flipped to feature desserts, including boozy milkshakes, before the third period of the games. Currently, game attendees can find Maria Menounos Greek cuisine in the Launch test kitchen.
Due to spacing constraints with an arena built in the heart of downtown, the designers had to get creative with a handful of their concepts. An alley-style vendor spot was turned into a street taco stand, set up like a Chipotle. Most of the new technology was installed in the 400 section of the arena. The now-famous Pour Your Own Beer wall, offering 17 different varieties of beer, was demonstrated to show how the technology works. Though a second cup will have to be purchased for refills as the QR code only works once, the tap does allow for a few ounces of extra beer just in case of a pouring accident.
In addition to the PYOB section was a new food concept called TOPPED. Creating completely customizable meals, guests can “top” wings, tots, fries, nachos, and pretzels with toppings of their choice. TOPPED’s orders are placed through computers. Once your order is made, it can be picked up a few feet away in a specially marked pick-up section.
A brand new AI scanner concept can be found outside of Section 427, where guests place their purchases under an intelligent self-checkout (by Mashgin) which scans the food and drinks automatically and guests pay on the spot. The technology knows exactly what type of food of beverage you are purchasing due to multiple scanners in the self-checkout. Capital One Arena’s Aramark representative Liz Noe said that sales using the new scanner have doubled compared to prior year sales in the same location and the faster checkout gets guests back in their seats faster.
For people lucky enough to sit on the glass at Capitals games or court-side at Wizards games, a brand new MGM VIP Lounge was built in the former practice court for the Wizards. Ticketholders can access this lounge before the game and during intermissions to take advantage of full bar and food service.
Here’s a list of the rest of the renovations at Capital One Arena.
More Comfortable Seats: Brand new seats, with new cupholders, throughout the arena.
Modern, Cutting Edge Sound System: Entirely new, state-of-the-art sound system designed to deliver the sharpest, clearest game and concert sound throughout the arena. No matter where in the arena you’re sitting, you’ll hear clean, powerful sound.
Modernized Concourses: Concourses on the 100 and 400 levels received a complete makeover, including new flooring, new lighting, and sleek new décor.
Premium Lounges: Two new destination lounges to Capital One Arena, including a newly-designed main concourse (100 level) lounge and the MGM National Harbor VIP Lounge, the first full-service hospitality area exclusive to Wizards courtside seat holders and Capitals glass seat holders.
Innovative Fan Engagement: State-of-the-art amenities have been installed to further engage fans and innovate their food and beverage experience. At the new Federal Favorites Express grab-and-go location (section 427), two Artificial Intelligent check out scanners have been installed to allow fans to quickly and easily complete their transactions. At the Over the Top stand (section 417), a 21-tap self-serve beer wall has been installed to allow guests to pour their own beer from a wide selection of brews. And, self-ordering kiosks have been installed at select locations, allowing fans to fully customize and pay for their order using touch screen technology.
Newly Designed Concessions: All concession stands throughout the 100 and 400 levels of the arena have been renovated and modernized featuring favorite arena fare along with new dining concepts to enhance the fan experience. Enhancements also include re-branding locations with new names and menus, constructing new destination bars, and introducing contemporary color schemes and décor. Other re-design elements include installing new cooking equipment, outfitting all stands with digital menu boards to make it easier to order, adding points of sale to improve speed of service, and posting new directional signage to help guests locate food stands.
Culinary Partnerships: Among the concessions highlights, fans will find award-winning chef David Chang’s Fuku (section 117), featuring its Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich and Jalapeno Fries, and Lucky Buns from celebrated, local chef Alex McCoy (section 120), featuring assorted specialty burgers. Launch Test Kitchen will showcase a rotation of chefs, celebrity restaurateurs and local brands, beginning with Maria Menounos’ Greek Kitchen (section 105), featuring Falafel Waffle Chicken, Gyros, Pita Points and Greek Spicy Feta Fries.
Reimagined PwC Club: PwC Club Seat holders in rows one and two will enjoy the comfort of oversized leather seats, each equipped with their own personal tray table and cup holder, for one of the most luxurious seating experiences offered at Capital One Arena. Row three will feature the comfort and convenience of bar top seating, and all PwC Club seats will include individual power outlets to keep your mobile device powered up while on the go. Branded culinary stations create a unique and memorable dining environment, headlined by original concepts from world-renowned celebrity chefs David Chang and Cat Cora. Chef Cat Cora, the first female “Iron Chef” champion, will feature Mediterranean selections from her signature Olilo menu, including create-your-own greens and grains bowls and gourmet flatbreads. Other station offerings include everything from arena favorites, a chef attended carving station, and gourmet desserts, to a made-to-order pizza oven.
Clearer Digital Displays and Wayfinding Signage: Fans will notice new digital displays in each quadrant of the concourses as well as upgraded internal wayfinding signage to make the arena even easier to navigate.
Retail Store Now Open Year-Round presented by Fanatics: The renovation included the updating of the flagship retail store at Capital One Arena, which is now open to fans year-round, making it easier to purchase the newest, hottest gear anytime.
The Connected Fan: Monumental360 Fan Platform: Part of our investment in Capital One Arena includes further developing cutting-edge technology that allows us to better serve our fans. The Connected Fan, our new Monumental360 program, provides us with data that will give us a better understanding of our fans’ preferences and interests, which will allow us to deliver an improved and more personalized fan experience, from food and beverage to special offers to specifically-tailored digital content.
Photos: Cara Bahniuk. Additional reporting by Elizabeth Kong.
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