Schneider Arena has been the home of Providence College Friars hockey since 1973. Named after the founder of the menís program, it seats a cozy 3,030. The building has historically been a tough place for visiting teams to win, with the Friars boasting a .588 home winning percentage over the 38 seasons prior to 2011-12. When not being utilized by the Friars menís or womenís hockey programs, the arena sees heavy use from local youth and high school teams.
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The good news is that the arenaís two concession stands flank the main stairway that leads to the seating area from the entry foyer, so you donít have to go very far for a snack. The bad news is that your choices are limited to the following: chicken tenders ($5.50), hot dogs, ($2.50), pizza ($3 cheese/$3.50 pepperoni), popcorn ($2.50), and candy ($1.75), with soft drinks, water, and Powerade ($2.50 each) available to quench your thirst, as well as coffee ($2 reg/decaf) or hot chocolate ($2.75) to keep you warm. There is no beer available at Schneider Arena as it is an on-campus facility.
An unremarkable building from the outside, the arena is unquestionably a quality place to watch a hockey game. Seating is in armchairs on a single tier with a walkway that runs the perimeter of the arena at the midpoint between the ice and the top row. Sight lines are good throughout, fans are close to the action, and the roomís low ceiling creates a nice, intimate environment.
Although some newer collegiate venues might be mistaken for a professional facility in terms of amenities, this is not one of them. There is a private room overlooking one end for the Friends of Friar Hockey, but thatís about it. Even though the place was fairly empty, I still got a vibe like Iíd stepped into one of the arenas from "Slap Shot", and that imagery stayed with me for the entire game. At the same time, I felt when I walked in that I had stepped back into a simpler time when college athletics were "purer", which is not at all a bad thing. The focus here is almost exclusively on what happens on the ice.
Nevertheless, credit must be given to the Friars for making a good effort to provide a nice game experience despite the lack of bells and whistles. There was no band, although recorded music was played strategically (playing "Hit the Road, Jack" and "So You Had a Bad Day" when visiting players were sent to the penalty box, for example). Announcements and promotions during stoppages were minimal, and there were no exhortations to the crowd to make noise. The scoreboard only shows time, score, shot, and penalty information. Despite a lack of fancy lighting, home team players were introduced individually in a darkened arena using a spotlight with music playing over the admittedly hard-to-hear PA. Intermission entertainment included a short pee-wee game after the first period, while an ice skating team performed after the second period.
Ultimately, Schneider Arena proves that a great time can be had at a facility that is less fancy than those hosting other programs or pro teams.
The arena is located on the Providence College campus at the corner of Huxley Avenue and Admiral Street, which is itself situated in the middle of a sleepy, overwhelmingly residential neighborhood without too much in the way of action. There are a few local hangouts, including The Abbey, Bradley Cafe, and The Escape, all of which are bar and grill-type establishments and within a 10 minute or so walk of the arena on Admiral Street. Cafe Four Twelve and Ladder 113, on Douglas Street, are also popular. There are a handful of pizza places and sandwich shop/delis along with a smattering of ethnic food choices, again concentrated on Admiral and Douglas, with a few more a little bit further away on Smith Street.
Itís a Saturday night. Schoolís in. The home team is decent if not spectacular. A top-ranked opponent is in town. So just where, exactly, were all the Friars hockey fans? By my count, they numbered in the mid-to-upper hundreds. Sure, a snowstorm had blown through earlier in the day, but it wasnít a major one. Certainly the students had nothing better to do on a wintry night, right? Wrong. Ultimately, it occurred to me that there might be a menís basketball game going on at the same time over at Dunkin Donuts Center. It turns out I was right (attendance: 9,469). Guess itís clear who rules this particular roost, at least on this night.
So, the attendance was low. Thatís OK though, since a small, dedicated group of fans can still raise a ruckus, especially in a small building like this. Except that didnít happen. At all. To be fair, the one-sidedness of the game (an 8-0 Friars loss) became apparent by midway through the first period. Obviously, a scoreline like that will take the wind out of even the hardiest of fansí sails. Regardless, the first two or three goals were essentially met with silence.
This emboldened the BU students who made the trip from Boston to act as if they were at their home rink. They basically had their run of the place from the get-go. Itís safe to say that their behavior may have stretched the line of boorishness at times, but we are talking about college kids here. Had the home fans responded at all, I suspect it may have kept them at least slightly in check.
Nevertheless, Friars fans became more vocal in their frustration as the score (and home team penalties) mounted, cheered good hits and scoring chances, and generally responded the way you would expect from decently knowledgeable hockey fans. Before most of them left after the second intermission, that is.
Providence College is close to a few RIPTA bus lines and it is relatively uncomplicated to get there from downtown via public transit. That said, most people are realistically going to end up driving. The campus is located a little over a mile from exit 23 off I-95 (specific directions slightly vary depending on direction of travel) and the Admiral Street exit from RI Route 146. Free on-campus parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis through the Huxley Avenue gate. There is ample additional on-street parking on the surrounding neighborhood streets.
The arena has two sets of decently-sized restrooms, one off the entry foyer and one downstairs through a portal at mid-ice. It is not too tough to imagine them becoming overwhelmed at intermissions with a full house, but it certainly is not an issue with a smaller crowd.
Providence College, while not one of the major powers of Hockey East, usually fields a competitive team. Tickets are quite affordable: single games are $10/$8 (adult/under 15 & over 60); season tickets run $114/$85 for 18 games with half and 5-game plans also available; tickets are free for undergraduate students with their ID starting 1 hour before game time. Although the concession choices are limited, they are certainly not expensive either.
All in all, any college hockey fan should agree that taking in a game at Schneider Arena is very much worth the price of admission.
As I implied above, there is something truly charming about this place. Perhaps it is that it reflects what college athletics are supposed to be about, without that the glitz and poshness of big-money programs. Regardless of what it is specifically, this venue deserves a little extra praise.
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571 Admiral St
Providence, RI 02908
412 Douglas Ave
Providence, RI 02908
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