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Official Review by Sean Rowland, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
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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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Making your way through the carpeted and inviting concourse, fans will find enough options for food. There are the usual offerings like cheeseburgers ($4.75), hot dogs ($3.25) and nachos ($4). Pizza and chicken strips are also available. The menu is fine, but there is not really anything special or unique that stands out. There is an area for sweets offering cookies, brownies and a few types of candy apples. Drinks are a bit pricey: $3 for a small soda and $2.25 for a coffee, otherwise the prices fit the region and are reasonable.
The Ryan Center is a really well designed building that provides great sightlines and a decent atmosphere for basketball. URI fans are much further from the court than they were at the old gym, however when looking at it from the perspective of a mid-sized arena, the specs are pretty good. There are three sections of seats with a lower level and an upper level. The upper deck of seats is a bit steep and usually has empty areas if you're looking for some room to spread out.
The atmosphere is good and crowds usually fill the Ryan Center to about half or three-quarters capacity. Nothing stood out to make the arena an overly difficult place for road teams in the A-10. Even with crowds around 5,000, the intimacy is lost a little bit because it is a larger building compared to some of the other band-boxes in the conference. Regardless, towards the end of the game it got louder and louder as game play turned exciting. There is a pep band and small student section.
Kingston does not have too much to offer, however nearby Wakefield offers the more "college-town" feel for the area. Wakefield is a fine small town a couple miles from campus, complete with a main street and places to eat and drink. Casey's Bar and Grill is decent, while the recently-opened Rhody Joe's has become quite popular with college kids and locals. Of course, both offer locally produced brews such as Narragansett and Newport Storm. Closer to URI, there is a section on the Eastern side of campus that features retail shopping, along with a couple of places to eat.
As mentioned earlier, fans continue to fill the Ryan Center with regularity and paid attendance is always higher than the capacity of the old Keaney Gym. I was disappointed in a couple things though. During the game I attended, the crowd booed URI after a horrible shooting performance in the first half. I hate when home fans boo their own team (especially when they are college kids) and I think the only excuse to do so is for a lack of effort in the professional sports world. Booing college athletes for missing shots was pretty bad. Secondly, there were a ton of students that sat behind the basket (not the small student section on the sidelines) and did nothing but play on their phones or talk to each other. C'mon, make some noise or at least watch the game!
Aside from that, it was nice to see the overall crowd get to its feet several times toward the end of an exciting game and get really involved towards the end. The game I saw featured a game-winning buzzer beater by URI and though the arena went nuts when it happened, it was odd because when everyone was filing out of the game, it felt like just a ho-hum win. It was a tough place to gauge the fans here.
Though it's not exactly close to a main highway, URI is accessible and easy to get to. Exit 3A from I-95 brings you to Rt. 138 East and that's all you need to get to the Ryan Center. It does take about 10 miles (or 20 minutes) to drive on the country road. There is another option if coming from further North (like Providence) and that would be to take US-1 until it meets up with Rt. 138.
The main parking lot is located by turning into campus and following Plains Rd for just under a mile. There is also another large parking area right off of Rt. 138, however, this brings fans to the arena's South Entrance and the will-call ticket office is only available on the other side at the North Entrance. Traffic both in and out of the arena was no problem.
Ticket prices are on the higher end as they range between $11-$22, while the sideline seats in the 100s and 200s are $30. Plus, there is a $5 premium game increase whenever URI brings in a "bigger-named" opponent. This seems a bit expensive and feels like they are more suited to the more elite teams in the conference like Temple or Xavier. One great thing though about the Ryan Center is parking and programs are free. Overall, it's worth a visit, especially to see a really nice, first-class basketball facility.
The three towers at the Ryan Center serve the purpose to bring fans up stairs to the main concourse. But on the outside, they were designed to invoke visions of Rhode Island lighthouses. Keeping with the ocean theme, the concourses inside are beautiful as they are carpeted and decorated in soft colors to make fans think of the nearby beaches and countryside. Lastly, I really liked the corner section that was left open on the inside of the arena. This is where the main scoreboard is, but it also provides a decent view of the game.
Follow all of Sean's journeys at Stadium & Arena Visits.
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191 Old Tower Hill Rd
Wakefield, RI 02879
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