LANDOVER -- Next season, Michael Jordan may feel more at home when he takes to the air for a dunk against the Washington Bullets in Landover.
That's because the Bullets' home will have a new name come July 1: USAir Arena.
Abe Pollin, owner of the Bullets and the NHL's Washington Capitals, announced the name change at a news conference yesterday.
Neither Pollin nor Seth Schofield, chairman of the board for USAir, would reveal the financial terms, but published reports have listed Pollin and his Centre Group's intake at $1 million a year over the 10-year deal.
The deal will allow Pollin to make significant renovations for the 19-year-old facility beginning next summer. He already has begun to explore possibilities and likely will improve the concession areas, sound system, scoreboard and seating.
"We are working with architects and engineers and graphic designers and some of the same people who were involved with renovations at Madison Square Garden," Pollin said at a news conference at the arena.
Capital Centre becomes the fourth American arena to be named after an airline, following the America West Arena in Phoenix, the Delta Center in Salt Lake City and the soon-to-be-completed United Center in Chicago.
L The name change was difficult at first for Pollin to accept.
"Changing the name from Capital Centre to USAir Arena was not the easiest decision for me and my wife," he said. "It was my wife who named this building at 30,000 feet in the air 22 years ago when we were traveling around the country to view other facilities to make sure the facility we built here at the time was the best in the world. We feel very happy about this new arrangement. We think that this kind of synergism between our two companies will produce nothing but a win-win situation."
USAir is the largest air carrier in the Washington-Baltimore area and employs more than 5,100 people here.
"It makes a great deal of sense for USAir to be associated with a first class facility that is so prominent and right in the middle of one of our most important markets, the Washington/Baltimore metropolitan area," Schofield said. "It is also a very natural
affiliation in that USAir has been the primary air carrier for both the Washington Capitals and the Washington Bullets for a number of years. We are also the official airline for the Georgetown University basketball team [which plays its home games at the arena]. The USAir arena will provide us with a myriad of promotional opportunities at a very reasonable cost."
The arena will celebrate its 20th anniversary Dec. 2. It has been host to more than 4,700 events since it opened, including three NBA championship series.
Pollin doesn't think season-ticket holders will have a hard time getting used to the new name.
"I would imagine for a while they might, but I think eventually that everyone will call it USAir Arena and be happy with it," he said.