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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Elizabeth and Malcolm Chace Wellness and Athletic Center is a multi-purpose arena on the Bryant University campus in suburban Smithfield, Rhode Island. The building, opened in 2001, serves as home to the Bryant Bulldogs men’s and women’s basketball teams, along with the women’s volleyball team.
Bryant University has been competing at the Division One level since the 2008-2009 season. They play in the Northeast Conference. Before elevating the program to the NCAA’s top level, the Bulldogs had a successful run in the NAIA from 1963 until 1976, and then in Division Two, reaching that level’s championship game in 2005. While Bryant has yet to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, they did make the CBI in 2013, losing in the first round.
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There is a small concession stand in the lobby outside the gym, which offers a limited menu.
Hungry Bulldog fans looking for a snack during a game can choose between hot dogs, pizza slices and nachos. Popcorn, assorted candy bars and ice cream treats are also sold here. Coca Cola products are featured at Chace Athletic Center.
On the plus side, the most expensive item on the menu is only $3.50.
Bryant offers the standard game day experience for visiting fans. There is a decent-sized pep band which performs during play stoppages. The cheerleading squad and dance teams are here to perform routines, as well as throw the occasional t-shirt into the crowd. There are trivia contests and halftime shooting competitions to keep the fans involved.
The student body at Bryant has a reputation as a rowdy bunch who makes life difficult on the opposition. While the student body does turn out in decent numbers, they are a very quiet, almost disinterested bunch. They have little to no affect on the atmosphere at Chace Athletic Center.
Smithfield is a suburb of Providence, RI, located about a twenty minute drive away from Rhode Island's capital city. Although it is a very nice place to live, it's certainly not a destination location. The Bryant campus is attractive, but there is not a whole lot in the immediate vicinity for visiting fans to see or do.
Dining options near Bryant University are few. Parente's restaurant is a favorite of students, as much for its location near campus as for its reasonably priced comfort food. There is really little else in the area besides a small strip mall in the vicinity of campus. Several national chain restaurants and shopping options are located about a 15 minute drive away on Route 44. Those looking for quality dining options should take the 20 minute drive to Providence, which is consistently rated as one of the better mid-sized cities in the country for culinary delights.
The same can be said for lodging options in Smithfield. There are a few decent options right on Douglas Pike near the Bryant campus, but visitors to the university would be better served to check out Providence or Boston for places to stay or things to do. For those looking for entertainment options in the immediate neighborhood, Twin Rivers Casino is in nearby Lincoln. If spending time in a casino is on your agenda, you would be much better served to travel to the twin resorts of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, located an hour away over the Connecticut state line.
Bryant averages under 500 fans per game at Chace Athletic Center. Attendance in recent years has risen and fallen in lock-step with the team's performance on the court. As recently as 2013, the Bulldogs averaged over 1,500 fans per game. With Bryant suffering through their first losing season in four years during the 2015-16 season, attendance has dropped off dramatically.
Bryant University is located in suburban Smithfield, Rhode Island, 13 miles from downtown Providence. The campus is located on route 7, just a few miles from Interstate 295. T.F. Green Airport is 20 miles away, with Boston's Logan Airport an hour away. Train service is provided by Amtrak, which has its downtown Providence station 15 minutes away. Rhode Island Public Transportation (RIPTA) has a bus station on the Bryant campus, connecting the campus with downtown Providence. Given the school's suburban location, virtually all visitors to Bryant arrive by car.
Since Bryant began as a commuter school, there is ample parking near the Chace Athletic Center. Fans will enter the Athletic Center into a large, modern-looking lobby, which features banners honoring the success of many different Bryant athletic teams. Trophy cases containing Bulldog memorabilia are located here, as is a fitness center and pool.
The gymnasium at the Chace Athletic Center is located off the main lobby. There is a secondary lobby which houses a small concession stand and a pair of decently-sized restrooms. With the small size of the crowds at Bryant basketball games, lines do not form, even at halftime.
Seating at the Chace Athletic Center is entirely in the form of wooden bleachers without backs. These bleachers run along both sides of the court. There are no seats on either end of the gym. With the gym's small size, all seats offer an excellent view of the court.
Tickets to Bryant basketball games are sold as general admission seats for ten dollars. Courtside seats are sold for $25, while seniors, youth, and non-Bryant students can purchase discounted five dollar seats. Bryant students attend Bulldog basketball games at no charge.
Parking in the large lot near Chace Athletic Center is free of charge, and with inexpensive concession options, Bryant University offers the least expensive Division One basketball experience in Rhode Island.
There are several banners at the far end of the gym honoring the successes of all of Bryant's athletic teams, going back to before the university's ascension to Division One status. Conference titles and NCAA tournament appearances are all listed on the banners here.
In tiny Rhode Island, where Providence College basketball is king, and University of Rhode Island basketball is a solid second, Bryant University is struggling to carve out their own niche among local hoop fans. Still in their first decade as a Division One team, the team's support has waxed and waned alongside the team's success on the court.
As a facility, there is little to separate Chace Athletic Center from the many other smaller facilities that dot the New England college basketball landscape. While it is a nice, new facility, it remains a secret to most except for the most dedicated Rhode Island college basketball fan.
Follow Paul Baker's stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
Member Review by Steve Stoehr on Apr 30, 2013
Opened in 2001, the Chace Athletic Center is home to the Bryant Bulldog’s men’s basketball team at Bryant University. On its face, the 2,600-seat arena pales in comparison to the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, where Providence College plays, or the Ryan Center in Kingston, home of the University of Rhode Island Rams, but it possesses its own charms.
1114 Douglas Pike
Smithfield, RI 02917
970 Douglas Pike
Smithfield, RI 02917
965 Douglas Pike
South Orange, RI 02917
1010 Douglas Pike
Smithfield, RI 02917