DC has lost an Icon... RIP Abe Pollin

During the past day and a half, there have been many local columnists, bloggers, reporters, celebrities, and media personalities doing tributes to the recently deceased owner of the Washington Wizards Abe Pollin. But you know, all the great things that has been said about Abe Pollin is well-deserved. In my opinion, he was probably one of the most important non-political figures here in DC, as he was very integral and single-handedly had a lot to do with the revitalization of what the city of DC has become today.

For those who just vaguely know the name of "Abe Pollin" he was known as the passionate sports owner. He owned the professional basketball team here in DC, that he brought from Chicago, then to Baltimore, then to DC. This team eventually became known as the Washington Bullets, then (due to political incorrectness) later became known as the Washington Wizards. He also brought professional hockey to Washington when the Expansion Capitals came to the NHL in '74. Overall, during his career in sports, he has owned 3 teams in the NBA's Bullets/Wizards, WNBA's Mystics, and NHL's Capitals.

But what I think what people would really remember him for is building the MCI Center (now Verizon Center) right smackdab in the middle of Washington, DC. An outstanding thing about that is that he pretty much built this arena with his own money, because at the time, the city was broke, and didn't have the money to issue bonds to pay to build the arena. If you lived in DC back then, you would remember that this part of the area was a pretty scary area to go to (almost as bad as the Anacostia/Southeast DC area was). But even more outstanding than that was that Abe Pollin building that arena pretty led to getting that area, and eventually the whole city becoming revitalized. Before that arena, there was nothing but run down buildings and apartment complexes, filled with lots of shady characters walking down the street. Nobody would think of getting off the Gallery-Place Metro Station. Now, that particular Metro Stop is pretty much the place to get off. There are tons of businesses around that arena, like office buildings, all sorts of restaurants, clubs, etc. Roughly 12 years after that arena opened that particular area of DC has become the spot where everything is happening.

Abe Pollin building that arena was the catalyst to the growth of the whole city of Washington, DC during the past 10 years. He inspired more real-estate moguls from around the country to take notice in this area and invest in this area by building properties, which eventually led to having this city more attractive overall, and raised the per capita income in the city and stimulated the local economy. If Abe didn't build the MCI Center, we wouldn't have building such as the Spy Museum, we wouldn't have most of the restaurants that we'd have (like Legal Sea Foods, the ESPN Zone, etc), and we wouldn't have Nationals Park, and arguably, the Washington Nationals. (The Expos were brought here because through it's well-improved economy during the past decade, partly thanks to the MCI Center, it was thought that this city can support a baseball team, and build a beautiful new stadium that people hoped could do for SE DC what the MCI Center did to Chinatown).

But as far as the Arena itself, it was one of the most revolutionary arenas of it's time, with a Jumbotron that was the first of it's kind (which later became an HD screen of it's kind), with several luxury suites, and cosy seats on the concourse. I remembered seeing the arena when it debuted on December '97 when the Wizards played the Sonics, and was just impressed with what I saw in TV. Then, when I got to go to my first event in MCI Center (which was a WCW Starrcade Wrestling Pay-Per-View), I was simply awestruck by the arena, as there was not a bad seat in the house. I have since then been to many other events in this arena, and has sat in many different sections, and I'm still awestruck with everything I've seen (as the last event I've been through, coincidentally, was another wrestling pay-per-view, in WWE Survivor Series this past Sunday).

People will truly remember Mr. Pollin for what all that he's done in this city... through building this arena, and through his other charity and philantrophic work. He'd donated millions to charity, give houses and money to the less fortunate, and along with Gilbert Arenas, help build schools around the area (through the Gilbert scores for schools program). He has singlehandedly done more for this particular city, than probably most owners in any city has done for theirs. I've previously blogged about current Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, and most of Mr. Leonsis principles were modeled from what Mr. Pollin believed in.

Unless you've lived in this area, you can't really understand how important Abe Pollin has been to this city. But even then, even if you lived in the area, you wouldn't really know the full extent of how he really was a human being and how he worked. (Even I doubted him at times, and was clueless with some of the decisions he's made in certain times, such as his firing of Michael Jordan as an executive. At the time, I didn't know it, but it turned out to be a great move).

But, I would say, that I do know, that through everything he has accomplished in the past 5 decades, it would be hard to top his legacy, not only as an NBA Owner, but as a person in general.

So RIP Mr. Pollin. The D.M.V. is surely going to miss you. Your love and accomplishments to this area is something that I personally want to get to someday, and without it, this city wouldn't be where it is. Washington Sports and Entertainment, and Washington, DC in general will never be the same about you!



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