Dunkin’ Donuts Center – Providence Friars
Providence College is a small liberal arts college located about two miles from downtown Providence, Rhode Island. It is the only college in North America administered by the Dominican Friars. With a total enrollment of just over 4,500 students, Providence College is the smallest school in the Big East Conference.
Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s Providence College was an emerging national powerhouse on the collegiate basketball scene. During this time the team played their home games in the cozy on-campus Alumni Hall, which seated only 2,620. Demand for Friars tickets was so great that a new, downtown arena was built to house both the Friars’ men’s basketball team and the American Hockey League’s Providence Reds. The Providence Civic Center, now named the Dunkin’ Donuts Center (or “The Dunk” locally), has been home to the Friars since its opening in 1972.
Ironically, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, which was built to house the growing Providence basketball program, replaced the venerable Rhode Island Auditorium, which served as home to the Providence hockey team. When the basketball team moved off campus the hockey team moved back on campus into the new Schneider Arena.
The Friars are a founding member of the Big East Conference, and Providence has been the home base of the circuit since its founding in 1980. The Friars have qualified for 19 NCAA Tournaments, reaching the Final Four in 1973 and 1987. In addition, Providence has made the NIT Tournament 19 times, winning titles in 1961 and 1963. Twenty-eight Friar alumni have played in the National Basketball Association.
Food & Beverage 3
For a venue the size of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, the concessions are quite disappointing. While the menu hits all the expected notes, there is no signature item nor a real local connection to be found. Even the arena sponsor falls short. There are no donuts or pastries sold at either of the two Dunkin’ Donuts stands here, only coffee.
The majority of the concession stands operate out of food courts on either side of the arena. Menus consist of arena staples such as hot dogs, sausage and pepper sandwiches, pizza slices, burgers and chicken tenders. The only items that might be considered unique are the meatball subs, pulled pork sandwiches, and wraps.
Fans looking for snack food will be satisfied by the wide assortment of fries, pretzels, popcorn, nachos and candy sold at the main stands. In addition, portable carts scattered around the concourse sell Dippin’ Dots and the most popular item at The Dunk, fried dough.
Pepsi products are featured at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Fans looking for adult beverages will be pleased by the wide selection, which features domestic brews such as Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors Light, Yeungling and Blue Moon, imports including Heineken, and microbrews from Long Trail Brewery. Wine and mixed drinks are also available at the many bar stands around the venue.
Providence College offers a slick, professional-quality game day presentation, utilizing The Dunk’s new oversized video board seamlessly with replays, graphics and game statistics.
Veteran college basketball fans will find much that is familiar here in Providence, with the school’s pep band, cheerleaders, dance squad, and mascots front and center to whip up the fan base. Friar Dom, the school’s Monk mascot, is one of the more memorable mascots you will find anywhere.
The student body shows up in great numbers, filling up floor and seating sections on both ends of the arena. They come armed with an assortment of chants and props designed to engage other fans and intimidate the opposition. Their presence fills The Dunk with noise and gives the team a solid home-court advantage.
Contests for younger fans in attendance take place during play stoppages, with t-shirt tosses and other giveaways sprinkled in throughout the game. All the fans in the arena stand until the first Providence basket, and the place can get really loud, particularly for bigger games. For the ultimate Dunkin’ Donuts Center experience, check out the annual PC-URI game, when The Dunk fills with fans from both sides. It’s a great experience.
The Dunkin’ Donuts Center is located in downtown Providence, within walking distance of a great number and variety of restaurants and attractions. Providence has a reputation as one of the top destinations in the country for foodies, and the area within walking distance of The Dunk reflects the diversity and quality of options in the city as a whole.
Right across the street from The Dunk is Trinity Brewhouse, an award winning brew pub and a popular gathering place for locals and visiting fans. Located a short walk from The Dunk is Federal Hill, Providence’s Little Italy, home of several nationally-renowned Italian restaurants. If visiting from out of town, you should certainly head here.
Also within a short walk of The Dunk is the Providence Place Mall, an upscale shopping center with shopping options and even more choices for hungry basketball fans. If visiting during the fall or spring, you may be able to check out Waterfires, an outdoor festival which has been held several weekends every year since 1994, during which eighty cauldrons lining the Providence, Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck Rivers are lit on fire. Many other cities have copied Waterfire, but the original started right here in Providence. The full schedule of Waterfire lightings can be found here.
Entertainment options in downtown Providence vary from the nationally renowned Trinity Repertory Company and Providence Performing Arts Center to historic sites such as the Arcade, the nation’s first enclosed shopping center, and the Rhode Island State House. In addition, the famous mansions of Newport are only 45 minutes to the south, and Boston is only 45 minutes to the north.
Providence College annually attracts just under 10,000 fans per game at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, putting them on the fringes of the top 50 schools nationwide. If you come to a game against one of the school’s traditional conference or local rivals, expect a packed house and lively crowd.
Anchoring the crowd at The Dunk are the student sections, which fill up the floor seating and several sections on either end of the building. Despite the fact that The Dunk is located off campus and students must be bussed to the arena, they turn out in very impressive numbers.
As the most popular team in the state, Providence College attracts more than just alumni. Locals, some of whom have been attending games since the team’s glory days of the 1960s, turn out in force to root on the Friars. Providence College puts out a high energy game day experience, which attracts families and younger fans as well.
The Dunkin’ Donuts Center is located in downtown Providence, and is easy to get to via Interstate 95. Simply take exit 21 (Atwells Avenue) if traveling from the north, or exit 22A (Memorial Boulevard) if traveling from the south. Be warned that traffic in and around Providence can be quite heavy if visiting on a weekday, so prepare to take some extra time to arrive.
There is ample parking in the many surface lots and garages around the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Downtown Providence can be a busy place, particularly around the holidays. With holiday shopping at the nearby Providence Place Mall, shows at Trinity Repertory Company and Providence Performing Arts Center, downtown is a very popular place to be.
Fans utilizing public transportation will be pleased to know that both Kennedy Plaza, the hub of the local RIPTA bus service, and Union Station, the local Amtrak stop, are located a short walk from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
The Dunkin’ Donuts Center features a large seating bowl with excellent views of the court. All seats at the arena are individual folding arena seats. The concourse and restrooms received a makeover in 2008, and the arena is fairly easy to get around. Expect lines to form in the food court and restrooms during halftime, so plan your trips accordingly.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets to Friars basketball games start at $15 for seats in the upper levels on the ends, increasing to $35 for center court on the upper level. Lower level tickets start at $25 on the ends and max out at $88 for center court seats. Providence College utilizes variable pricing for their home games, meaning that for premium games (conference games against Big East rivals such as Georgetown and Villanova and local rivals such as Rhode Island and Boston College) you can expect to pay $10-$20 more per seat. While the Friars attract solid crowds, there are usually seats available at game time.
Parking is available in lots and garages around The Dunk, ranging in price from $10-$25. Locals will search the streets around downtown for on-street parking. If choosing this option, be aware that meters are in effect until 6pm, eliminating the free on-street parking that Friar fans enjoyed for years. Another option is to park at the nearby Providence Place Mall, which will validate your parking for five dollars. Enclosed walkways connect the mall with the arena, meaning you can avoid the cold Rhode Island winter. However, this option is not recommended around Christmas, as mall traffic increases exponentially.
Concession prices at The Dunk are expensive, but generally in line with other venues in the area. With the quality and variety of dining options in the area, it is recommended that if visiting Providence, you eat somewhere in the neighborhood before or after the game.
An extra point is awarded for the sense of history and accomplishment at the Dunk. Banners hang from the rafters commemorating Final Four appearances, conference championships and tournament appearances. In addition, several retired numbers are honored with banners at the Dunk. Casual basketball fans may be surprised by some of the names of players who played in Providence, including NBA top 50 honoree Lenny Wilkins.
Providence College is remarkable for the effect it had on modern college basketball today. As a founding member of the Big East, today’s superconferences can trace their roots directly to Providence College. In the front offices of the arena is the table where the Big East conference was formed. It is commemorated by a plaque. The great majority of the fans who visit here will never see this piece of history, but The Dunk played a very important role in today’s college basketball landscape.
A final extra point for Friar Dom, one of the most unique mascots in the country. It’s not often you see a giant monk atop a twirling pyramid of cheerleaders, but here in Providence, you will be sure to see just that. At the far end of the seating bowl stands a giant inflatable Friar Dom, a mainstay at Providence games since the 1970s.
In tiny Rhode Island, where so much of the local sports scene is ruled by the nearby Boston professional teams, the Providence College Friars give Ocean State residents something to call their own. Make no mistake, the Friars are the kings of the Rhode Island sports scene. A case could be made that Providence is the second most successful basketball program in all of New England, trailing only the University of Connecticut. The Dunk is a solid mid-sized facility, and is in the rotation of early-round tournament sites. Unless you come to a Friars game expecting to grab a dozen donuts, you won’t be disappointed.
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Providence, Rhode Island may not be a place where you would expect to find a rabid college basketball following. But make no mistake, Providence College basketball is the king of the Rhode Island sports scene. In fact, you could make a strong case that the Friars are the second most successful team in all of New England, trailing only the University of Connecticut. The Dunk is a solid mid-sized facility, and the recent success of the Friars has breathed new life into the arena. Unless you come to Providence expecting to get a dozen donuts during the game, you won’t be disappointed.