Ryan Center – Rhode Island Rams
Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Thomas M. Ryan Center 1 Lincoln Almond Plaza Kingston, RI 02881
Year Opened: 2002
Raising a Ruckus
The Thomas M. Ryan Center, named for the University of Rhode Island 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. 17 URI alumni have gone on to play in the NBA.
Food & Beverage 3
There are a total of five concession stands that line the concourse of the Ryan Center. The menu doesn’t stray very far from arena basics, but visiting fans should be able to find something to ease any hunger pangs that arise during the game. But beware, some of the more unique items that used to highlight the menus are no longer offered.
Each stand offers a slightly different menu, so you may have to do some searching to find your desired items. Hot dogs, burgers, chicken tenders, grilled chicken sandwiches and personal pizzas anchor the menus. Of course, fans will find sides including nachos, fries, pretzels and popcorn at all the stands.
Coca-Cola products are featured at the Ryan Center. Among the adult beverages sold here are brews from local favorites Narragansett and Shaidzon Beer as well as versions of the popular Chair 2 Light Beers. Woodbridge Wine is also available at all stands. For a little more local flavor, seek out the Del’s Lemonade cart. Nothing screams “Rhode Island” like a cup of Del’s.
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, Ruckus the Ram, 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.
One area where the Ryan Center may come up short when compared to peer facilities is its location. Even though URI boasts an enrollment of over 18,000 students, there’s just not much to do in the area around campus. 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. Tavern on Main, also located in Wakefield, is another popular spot. Aside from a Holiday Inn on Route One, there’s not many lodging options near campus. 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.
Attendance at the Ryan Center has dipped over the past couple of seasons as the team has struggled, topping out at just over 5,000 fans per game. While a decrease, this still puts the Rams over 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.
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. The Ryan Center practices a clear bag policy, with no other bags except for small clutches permitted, so make sure you leave anything else in your car. It might be a long walk back.
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 features 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 5
Rhode Island utilizes variable pricing for Rams games, with tickets to marquee games ranging in price from $20-$35, featured games ranging from $15-$30 and tickets to most other games priced from $12-$22. Even Club seats can be affordable. Purchasing tickets on game day will add $3-$5 to the price. Complete pricing information can be found here.
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 throughout the facility.
Banners honoring URI championship and tournament teams hang from the rafters of the Ryan Center along with five honored numbers from distinguished alumni.
Check out the trophy case displaying the Rams’ collection of hardware won over their history. It may seem like a meager haul for a team that’s as storied as the Rams, but it’s a nice display.
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 in comparison to its peers primarily due to its location. Place this outstanding arena in a major city, and the rave reviews would roll in. Nevertheless, 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.