Ryan Center – Rhode Island Rams
Photos by Paul Baker and Matt Fiedler, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Thomas M. Ryan Center 1 Lincoln Almond Plaza Kingston, RI 02881
Year Opened: 2002
The Rhody Way
The Thomas M. Ryan Center, named for the class of 1975 alumnus and primary benefactor of the arena, was built in 2002 to replace the aging and undersized 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 basketball arena.
The Rams have made the NCAA tournament ten times in their history, advancing as far as the Elite Eight in 1998. In addition, URI has played in the National Invitational Tournament 15 times, making the semi-finals on three occasions. A total of 17 URI alumni have gone on to play in the NBA.
Food & Beverage 5
Several concession stands line the interior wall of the Ryan Center concourse, each with a unique menu. Some searching may be necessary to find your desired items. The menu doesn’t stray too far from arena basics, but fans looking for something different may want to check out a specialty pizza or some buffalo tenders. Since we’re in New England, it’s a given that Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is sold at some stands.
The Ryan Center incorporates a bit of local flavor with the inclusion of two legendary local institutions. Del’s Lemonade operates a cart featuring their delicious frozen lemonade in two flavors, lemon and watermelon. For something truly unique at a basketball game, head on over to the Matunuck Oyster Bar, where you can get a lobster roll or some freshly shucked oysters.
Coca-Cola products are featured at the Ryan Center. Fans looking for an adult beverage can head over to one of the two enclosed “Rhody Pubs” located at either end of the arena, where beer and wine are available. Stadium Journey recommends trying a Whalers Rise.
Stadium Journey’s most recent visit to Kingston happened during Thanksgiving break, but the absence of the student body did little to dampen the mood on this day. The cheerleading squad, dance team and mascot were all out in full force to help create noise during play stoppages, and the dedicated Rams fans took it from there.
Play stoppages are filled with contests, giveaways and more to keep the energy level up and the fans engaged. If you’re a fan of t-shirt tosses, dance cams and the like, you’re sure to have a good time at the Ryan Center. A large video board in one corner of the arena shows game stats, replays and other information. There’s an emcee who pops up from time to time to pump up the crowd with chants of “Rhody, Rhody, Rhody.”
The student body generally shows up in strong numbers, as this is one of the rare schools in New England where basketball is top dog. Despite being overshadowed by Providence College in the local sports scene, the Rams have plenty of their own dedicated fans.
The major drawback to the Ryan Center is its location. Located in rural Kingston, the URI campus is a bit of a drive from Interstate 95. Providence is about 30 miles to the north. During the summer the nearby coastal towns of Narragansett and Newport are popular destinations, but not so much during basketball season.
Visiting fans looking for somewhere to eat or stay during their visit to Kingston will have a bit of driving to do before finding something. Mews Tavern, featuring 69 beers on tap and an excellent pub menu, is a favorite of locals. There is a Holiday Inn nearby on Route One, but not much else right near the university. History buffs may want to check out the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace and Museum located in Saunderstown. Otherwise, head to Providence or to the coast to find more options. A full listing of local restaurants and hotels can be found here.
The Rams average around 6,000 fans per game at the Ryan Center, a figure which has remained steady over the past several years. This puts them just under the Atlantic-10 average. A typical URI crowd is made up of locals, alumni and families enjoying a night of entertainment in southern Rhode Island. While the lions’ share of the local media attention in the area goes to Providence College, the University of Rhode Island has their share of ardent supporters. Parents can feel comfortable bringing their children to a Rams game.
The student section turns out in good numbers armed with props and chants designed to distract and annoy the opponent. Along with a solid pep band, cheer and dance squads, they help to create a festive atmosphere at the Ryan Center.
For the 2021-22 season all fans are asked to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the game. All fans are required to wear a mask during games at the Ryan Center. The Ryan Center practices a clear bag policy, with no other bags except for small clutches permitted.
The Ryan Center is located on the western edge of the URI campus in rural Kinston, Rhode Island, adjacent to Meade Stadium and Bill Beck Field. Driving here from Providence will take about 40 minutes on a typical day. Getting to the T.F. Green Airport is a 20-minute drive, and the Kingston Amtrak station is just a mile and a half away. Complete directions to the Ryan Center can be found here.
Parking lots are located on the north and south sides of the Ryan Center. Parking is free in these lots, but it can be a long walk to your car on a frigid Rhode Island night. Fans requiring handicapped parking or VIP treatment can inquire about parking in the Rhody Lot directly in front of the arena. There is a charge for this VIP parking.features
There are entrances on either end of the arena. Fans will enter at ground level, with stairs leading up to the main concourse. The concourse, which is carpeted, encircles the entire arena and is open on one corner, where the video board is located. The concourse overlooks Meade Stadium on one side, and the Ryan Center is open during football games. Concession stands and rest rooms are plentiful enough for a typical Rams crowd, and lines are not an issue here.
All seats are individual Rhody blue folding stadium seats. The upper level feature a very steep pitch, which ensures excellent views of the action on the court from all points inside the Ryan Center. The furthest seat is only 74 feet from the basketball court. The intimate design of the Ryan Center means that the building can get very loud when the Rams are on a roll.
Return on Investment 4
Rhode Island utilizes variable pricing for Rams games, with tickets to marquee games ranging in price from $20-$50 and tickets to most other games priced from $12-$40. The majority of tickets can be purchased for $22 and under.
Parking is free in the lots adjacent to the Ryan Center. Concession prices, while not inexpensive, are in line with other venues in the area.
The University’s Athletic Hall of Fame is located in the Ryan Center. Plaques honoring the enshrined line the walls of the facility. Banners honoring URI championship and tournament teams hang from the rafters of the Ryan Center. There is also a display on the main concourse containing various Rams trophies accumulated over their history.
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.
The Ryan Center is an excellent venue that suffers primarily from its location. Place this outstanding arena in a major city, and the rave reviews would roll in. Nonetheless, it is a great place to catch a basketball game, combining intimacy and convenience. It’s a worthy Stadium Journey for any hoops junkie visiting New England.
Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.