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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Thomas M. Ryan Center, named for class of 1975 alumnus and primary benefactor of the arena, was built in 2002 to replace the aging Keaney Gymnasium. The building is located adjacent to Meade Stadium on the western edge of campus, with the football stadium’s visiting side bleachers built directly into the side of the Ryan Center.
The Rams have made the NCAA tournament eight times in their history, advancing as far as the Elite Eight in 1998. While the Rams have not qualified for the NCAA tournament since 1999, they have played in postseason tournaments twice in the past four seasons.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are six concession stands located throughout the Ryan Center concourse which offer your basic arena fare. The stands are divided by menu offerings, such as a Mexican stand offering tacos and burritos, the Dog-House, which offers specialty hot dogs, Build-a-Burger, pizza, and grilled items such as Italian sausages and chicken sandwiches. Of course, this is Rhode Island, so Dunkin' Donuts operates a couple of stands at the Ryan Center. Coca Cola products are featured at the Ryan Center. While the overall food selection doesn't stray too far from the basics, the quality is decent, as are the prices which are comparable to other venues in the area.
New to the Ryan Center for the 2014-2015 season is the Rhody Pub, which provides thirsty Rams fans an opportunity to purchase beer and wine at basketball games. The pub, which overlooks the court, is an extremely popular place to hang out, particularly at halftime.
The Ryan Center is about ¾ full for most basketball games, but the crowd makes enough noise for a full house. There is a good turnout by the student section, and they do their best to distract the visiting team with their chants and shenanigans. The Ryan Center isn't a particularly intimidating venue for opponents, but the fans here are really into the game, and the place gets louder as the game progresses.
The Rhody basketball staff puts on a good show for fans in attendance. There are contests and giveaways sprinkled throughout the game, such as a half-court shot for $10,000, t-shirt tosses, parachute drops, and much more. The Rhody Ram prowls the court to entertain the younger fans, and the presence of the pep band and cheerleaders is enough to keep most fans occupied. There is a large video board in the open corner of the arena which plays a slick pre-game video, and ties together all the action going on both during the game and play stoppages.
Seats at the Ryan Center, particularly in the upper mezzanine, are quite a distance from the court, which differentiates this facility from others in the A-10 Conference. This arena was built for basketball, and features excellent sight lines.
Basketball fans looking for dining or recreational activities within walking distance may be disappointed with the university's rural location. The URI campus is fairly self-contained, without a great deal of restaurants or places of interest nearby. Those willing to travel a short distance will be rewarded with many wonderful restaurants and sights. The Mews Tavern in nearby Wakefield boasts 69 beers on taps and an extensive bar menu. It is a favorite of the student body. In addition, Narragansett, located 8 miles to the south, Newport, 16 miles to the east, and Providence, 29 miles to the north, offer a wide variety of dining, lodging, and tourist options for the traveling basketball fan.
There are no lodging options directly adjacent to the URI campus, so fans looking to stay near URI overnight will need to look elsewhere. There are some options in nearby South Kingstown (don't ask me why "Kingstown" has a "W" and "Kingston" doesn't, I couldn't find an answer) and beyond.
The nearby seaside towns of Narragansett and Newport are worth a visit by any out-of-towners visiting Rhode Island. Newport is a well-known tourist attraction with many things to see and do, while Narragansett boasts many fine restaurants and beaches of its own. These towns are not as busy during basketball season as they are during the summer, but they are still worth a look by visiting basketball fans. Other fans may choose to head towards Providence for more action. Boston is about 90 minutes away from the Kingston campus.
Rhode Island basketball is enjoying a resurgence in recent years, and the fans of Rhode Island are responding. The average crowd at the Ryan Center numbers about 6,000, and it is not unusual to see the arena filled close to capacity for big games. Even the early season games, which can be sparsely attended, draw crowds that would more than fill the old Keaney Gymnasium. Basketball is the big sport here at URI, and the student body turns out in great numbers to catch the action. When the Rams go on a roll, the Ryan Center gets loud really fast, and a great majority of the fans get on their feet to cheer on the home team.
The Ryan Center is located on the western side of the URI campus in Kingston, RI. The small town of Kingston is located 29 miles south of Providence and 20 minutes south of T.F. Green Airport. Driving to Kingston from Providence will take you about 40 minutes on a normal Saturday. The campus is located on Route 138, approximately a 10 mile drive from I-95 as it passes through southern Rhode Island. The URI campus is served by public transportation, as RIPTA buses have several routes that serve the campus from Providence. In addition, the Kingstown train station is about two miles away from campus, with Amtrak making regular stops at the station.
There are several parking lots surrounding the Ryan Center, and the vast majority of the 3,600 parking spots are free of charge. The one exception is the Ram lot, a small lot located directly adjacent to the arena, which has room for just over 100 cars, and also contains the handicapped accessible spaces. This lot costs $20 for URI games. Otherwise, parking in any of the other lots on either side of the building is free.
Most fans enter the arena through the North Entrance, which, since this is Rhode Island, contains a Dunkin' Donuts stand. Fans with 100 level seats can proceed directly onto the arena floor and their seats. Fans with seats in the 200 or 300 sections will take a set of stairs up to the main concourse. This concourse, which is carpeted, overlooks neighboring Meade Stadium on one side, and opens up to the arena floor in one corner. Fans will have no difficulty navigating this carpeted concourse and finding their seats. Restrooms are clean, and lines do not form, except at halftime.
The vast majority of seats at the Ryan Center can be had for $31 or less, with prices bottoming out at $14 for mezzanine seats in the end zones. If you want to sit courtside at URI, prepare to pay premium prices of up to $91, but the average fan will not feel gouged by the prices here.
Rhode Island uses variable pricing for its games, and prices are raised by $5 across the board for "premium" games. Still, with free parking and decent concession prices, a basketball game at URI will not break the bank.
An extra point is given for the free parking and free programs available at the Ryan Center. These touches are not found in many other Division One venues.
Another extra point is awarded for the design of the Ryan Center, which is meant to evoke visions of nearby beaches. The stair towers are designed to resemble lighthouses, and the carpets on the concourse contain wave patterns on them, as well as shades of blue and tan found on the beach. It is a very pleasing venue to the eye.
A third extra point is given for some of the unique aspects of the arena, such as the concourse that opens up to the arena floor, giving some fantastic views of the action, and the luxury boxes that overlook both the basketball court and football field.
The Rams play second fiddle in Rhode Island to their upstate rival in Providence, but their on-campus facility takes a back seat to no other school in the area. The mid-sized Ryan Center provides the Rams with a distinct home court advantage, and provides URI fans with an excellent, modern venue from which to watch this improving team.
You can follow all of Paul Baker's stadium and arena visits on Twitter at @puckmanri
Member Review by shamus170
The University of Rhode Island is located in a section of the state that is usually reserved for beach vacations. However, during the winter-time, many descend upon Kingston to watch Rams basketball. Prior to the 2010-2011 season, the last trip to the NCAAs for Rhode Island was in 1999, when controversial guys like Lamar Odom and Jim Harrick led the team. As the school and fan base grew, URI decided it was time to leave the 3,385-seat Keaney Gym for a new arena and they built a gorgeous facility next door in 2002. Ever since, fans have proven the decision to be correct and they've been treated to a state-of-the-art facility to watch games in.
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