Authors Richard Friend (third from right), Kevin Leonard and Jeff Krulik pose with their new publication “Capital Centre: A Retrospective” at the recent 50th anniversary celebration of the arena at Martin’s Crosswinds, in Greenbelt. Photo: Mark R. Smith

It can only be a labor of love, and perhaps a solid boot from a $22,000 Kickstarter campaign, that would inspire three local historians to collaborate on a tome like “Capital Centre: A Retrospective,” the new salute to the glory days of Washington’s fabled arena.

And love it was from thousands of longtime area residents who, in support of Laurel History Boys Richard Friend and Kevin Leonard, and documentarian Jeff Krulik, opened their wallets and financed a limited edition run of 2,000 hardback copies. In return, they all received a book for $40, instead of the current price of $50.

After all, those folks are among the many, many of the region’s denizens who attended sporting events, concerts and other extravaganzas at the “Cap Centre,” as Abe Pollin’s saddle-shaped entertainment palace in the Prince George’s County suburb of Largo, was often known.

Opened in late 1973, the venue’s last full year of operation was 1998 given the late 1997 moves of the NHL’s Washington Capitals and the NBA’s Washington Wizards to what is now known as Capital One Arena.

As for the old barn, it was imploded in late 2002; the site now hosts the University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center, among other development.

Solid start

With sales that Friend termed “solid” after the official release of the book ― which was completed in advance of the 50th anniversary of the building’s opening on Dec. 2, 2023 ― in late January, the trio is looking forward to an author’s event on Sunday, April 28, at Oliver’s Old Towne Tavern on Laurel’s Main Street from 3—5 p.m.

While such projects are great for personal enrichment and the edification of longtime area residents, the thought of having to raise thousands of dollars to finance one is daunting. But happily, on this occasion the market was there.

“Ideally, we would’ve had a generous benefactor fund the full cost of the printing, but that’s rare,” said Friend. “There wasn’t enough time for us to fully explore mainstream publishing opportunities, so Kickstarter provided a great way to crowdfund the project.”

The trio felt that crowdfunding the print run “would at least reward us more than the pennies on the dollar that working with a mainstream publisher would’ve provided,” he said.

Images within

The next question concerned the book’s content; a text-heavy presentation wouldn’t have fit the vibe of what was created as a celebration and includes many photos, with images of artifacts and ephemera.

“We wanted a visual scrapbook driven by the oral histories of people who lived the Capital Centre experience,” said Friend. “Jeff (who was involved with an exhibit that featured the arena for the University of Maryland College Park) was instrumental in connecting us to many key personnel, most notably former Centre Group President Jerry Sachs. And Kevin conducted dozens of interviews over several months with former employees at all levels, from executives to concession workers.”

Another positive from the Kickstarter success was that it allowed the authors to go the hardback route.

“It would have cost $14,000 to have 2,000 paperback copies printed. However, when the Kickstarter campaign surpassed that minimum goal, we decided to upgrade to hardcover, which ran closer to $20,000,” said Friend, noting additional shipping and handling fees. “Even using USPS Media Mail costs about $7 postage for each book, not including packing fees.

“However,” he said, “we comfortably covered that expense.”

Printing overseas

Then came the issue of printing those hard-bound books, which is a process that has become more complicated than most of the public understands. The Cap Centre book was produced in China because there are few functional book binderies in the U.S. and, even if a plant is available, printing stateside costs several times what it does overseas.

While going that route was much less costly, shipping heavy books isn’t cheap, either. A 200-count rush airfreight shipment that was sent in advance for a Capital Centre 50th Anniversary reunion in Greenbelt last December cost $3,200 alone; however, all told, shipping was included within the total printing cost of $17,000.

But now that all is said and done, what’s been most rewarding “is the warm reception the effort has received from the people who knew the Capital Centre so well,” said Friend, who’s hoping many will come meet the authors at Oliver’s. Their reminiscences about those golden days of triumphs and losses, along with the celebrations and heartbreaks, were the point of this effort from day one.

While the trio is hopeful of a second printing, “Our goal going into this project was not to lose money. It was never about making a profit,” said Friend.

“However, we did strive to respect the arena’s history,” he said, “and had some fun doing it.”