I left work on time around 1 PM Friday Afternoon and quickly hopped on the road to Rhode Island. I left myself plenty of extra time as there was the expected I-95 sporadic traffic in Connecticut. First stop was Providence and this was my second visit to that city. Last summer, I was there for a trade show and was pleasantly surprised at how nice the downtown area was after their revitalization that took place in the 90s. There’s a whole section within walking distance featuring the beautiful new convention center, Providence Place mall, the State Capitol and the best part being Waterplace park, which runs along the river. Then there’s also the older section of Federal Hill nearby, which is “Little Italy” and featured a ton of great Italian restaurants.
The Dunkin’ Donuts Center is attached to the convention center, who actually bought the building and put it through an $80 million renovation in the mid-2000s. This really changed the whole complexion of the arena as it feels new, as opposed to the classic 70s building it used to be. From the outside look, to the large, open concourses, to the refurbished seating bowl, EVERYTHING was essentially modernized and I thought it turned into a terrific building. Because of the older design, luxury seating is neatly tucked away and overall sightlines were good. It felt like an arena bigger than the near 12,000 capacity. The only think I didn’t like was how at the top of the 100 level, there were three rows of seats scattered about and this disrupted any possibility of a walkway between the first and second level.
I came to see a Bruins AHL hockey game, but it was nice to see that this arena seems to show equal love to both the Bruins and the Friars basketball team (the other tenant from Providence College). The Bruins played hard and even outshot the best team in the league, Hershey Bears, 22-6 in the final two periods, but they ended up falling 4-3 after they couldn’t tie the game in the last minute with a 6 on 4. Providence has tremendous fan support with over 10,000 showing up on this night and the team ranks third in AHL attendance. It is however a minor-league baseball type atmosphere with a ton of families and kids. There was a lot of general buzz or talking during play and I heard almost no applause for the non-big plays (killing off a penalty, making a big save). Also, the amount of people (mainly parents with kids) walking up and down the aisles during play was ridiculous. Regardless, it was nice to attend a game with a mostly packed house and noise after goals was decent.
After the game, I stayed at a hotel in nearby Warwick and then made the short drive to Kingston the following afternoon for a Rhode Island basketball game. This one had a little personal special meaning because it was my 100th new stadium visited. It started off a little odd, because I parked in the Keaney Lot at the South end of the building. I knew that will-call was on the other side of the arena, but I wanted to walk around and get my pictures. What I didn’t know was they didn’t connect and you can’t really walk around to the other side because the football field and other attached buildings block it. Whoops! The only good thing was I got my pics in and I got to see their old arena: Keaney Gym. I walked back into the cold wind to my car and drove around to the other side and parking lot, which was not bad at all.
What a beautiful arena I saw and fully deserving of being #100. Build in 2002, I like how it has “Rhode Island” touches: from the corner towers attempting to resemble lighthouses, to the soft sand/water colors of the beautifully carpeted concourse, it is a terrific facility. I’m also a fan of unique seating bowls and this one was just that. I thought the corner where the concourse opens up to a full view of the inside and the scoreboard on the wall looked good. The upper-decks here were also steep giving a closer view of the game. A good turnout of over 5,000 showed up for the game and they were into it, though I did not like that they booed when Rhody couldn’t make a shot in the first half. Overall, it was a decent atmosphere (about a 6.5 out of 10), but I was disappointed in the student section as the “official” one was quite small, while the ones behind the basket (just about all of them in fraternity or sorority sweatshirts instead of URI stuff) just sat on their hands or played on their phones.
What really made this arena visit was the incredible game. Rhode Island was playing Charlotte in an A-10 contest and the Rams were horrific shooting in the 1st half, probably the worse performance I’ve seen at a game. Even though 9 for 28 doesn’t sound atrocious, believe me it was. They still struggled in the second half, but finally turned it around with a nice run (including two alley-oops) as they caught up to tie and take the lead when the game was in the 50s. The Rams were up by two with :14 left when Charlotte game down and got fouled under the hoop with :08 remaining. Chris Braswell knocked down both shots to tie the game at 64 and Marquis Jones’ shot at the buzzer was blocked. In OT, URI was down three and a frantic offensive position in the final 30 seconds eventually led to a Jones layup to cut the lead to 1 with :12 left. They then forced a turnover on the inbounds pass and had a chance to win it. The first attempt failed, but they got the ball back with :03 left. A shot for the corner went long, but little used Jamal Wilson got the putback to go in just before the horn and URI wins a buzzer beater! Awesome! I had the camera rolling for video at the end (see below) and I couldn’t help myself getting excited for the home team. That wrapped up a good, little trip with a couple solid venues and an arena worthy of my 100th visit. I’ll likely have a post later in the week on the first 100. Be sure to check out the detailed reviews of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center and the Ryan Center. Also, look for my reviews sometime within the next week or two over at Stadium Journey.