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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Wildcat Center - Johnson & Wales Wildcats

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71

Wildcat Center

305 Shipyard Street

Providence, RI 02905

Year Opened: 2004

Capacity: 600

Wild at the Harborside


Johnson and Wales University is a private university with its main campus in downtown Providence, RI. Founded in 1914 by Gertrude Johnson and Mary Wales as a business school, JWU has a total enrollment of over 7,000 students spread out over its four campuses. Today the school is best known for its culinary arts and hospitality programs. Several celebrity chefs, including Emeril Lagasse and Aaron Sanchez, are alumni of JWU.


Initially known as the Harborside Center, the Wildcat Center contains two gymnasiums, a fitness center, game room, the university’s bookstore and space for student involvement and life programming.


Johnson and Wales basketball currently plays in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) alongside several other schools in New England. Starting with the 2024-25 season the Wildcats will move to the Commonwealth Coast Conference. JWU has qualified for four NCAA Tournaments, most recently in 2018.


Food & Beverage 1


There are no concessions sold at Wildcat Center. Fans are allowed to bring in their own snacks to enjoy during a Wildcat basketball game. Should you need a snack, there are a pair of vending machines in the lobby.


Atmosphere 3


A Wildcats basketball game will feel and sound similar to so many other Division Three events. It’s a rather simple, relaxed atmosphere. The crowd is made up mainly of family members and friends of the players on the court. A dance squad takes their place along the far baseline, performing during breaks in play. The PA announcers go about their jobs (two people share the microphone here) in an unobtrusive manner, with their voices somewhat unintelligible over a fuzzy sound system. Simple scoreboards provide basic game information at either end of the court. Young fans spend their time shooting hoops at the open baskets on the far side of the gym, totally ignoring the game.


The unquestioned highlight of the experience at the Wildcat Center is the cheerleading squad. They take up residence in the near side bleachers and come armed with a repertoire of chants, cheers and routines that are designed to distract the opposition, but which will undoubtedly draw your attention at some point. Their material is that much fun!


The main basketball court at the Wildcat Center takes up one half of the larger gymnasium. This has the unwanted effect of dampening the noise level in an otherwise cozy gym. For the best game day experience at a Johnson and Wales game, get there early and sit on the smaller, north side bleachers.


Neighborhood 3


Johnson and Wales’ Providence campus is divided into two parts: Downcity and Harborside. The Wildcat Center is located in the Harborside campus, on the Providence/Cranston city line. The campus is wedged in between the Port of Providence and the residential Edgewood neighborhood. Having such an industrial area next to your campus will severely impact the number of restaurants, pubs and lodging options typically found around a campus.


Providence has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best mid-sized cities in the country for culinary options, thanks in no small part to the JWU alumni working in all aspects of the hospitality industry. Downtown Providence is about a ten-minute drive from the Harborside campus. That is where you’ll find your best dining and lodging options if visiting the city from out of town. There’s no shortage of choices, but many out-of-towners head to Federal Hill, Providence’s version of Little Italy, for some fine cuisine.


Downtown is also where you’ll find the Amica Mutual Pavilion, home of Providence College basketball and the AHL’s Providence Bruins. If you prefer to stick around campus, locals have frequented the Edgewood Market for decades for their deli grinders and pizzas.


Fans 2


A crowd at a Johnson and Wales basketball game is your typical “friends and family” gathering typical of most Division Three schools. Most of the fans in the stands have a personal connection with the players on the court and as a result are very knowledgeable and invested in the Wildcats.


There’s a decent turnout from the student body, and given that much of the Wildcats’ schedule consists of local teams, there’s a good chance you’ll see many fans of the visiting squad in attendance on any given day.


Access 4


The Wildcat Center is located in Johnson and Wales’ Harborside campus, located on the Providence/Cranston city line. The Port of Providence is adjacent to the campus, so the area has a very gritty, industrial feel. When driving to Wildcat Center, you may want to keep in mind that your GPS may direct you there via the Port, and those roads are likely to be closed to local traffic. To avoid this snafu, simply take Narragansett Boulevard into Cranston and enter the campus via Harborside Boulevard. A left onto Shipyard Ave will put you right at the Wildcat Center. For visitors using public transportation, RIPTA’s 3 and 4 buses stop at the school’s front entrance.


There is ample parking for the Wildcat Center behind the building and across the street from the facility. Fans will enter the building into a large, well-lit lobby, where the school’s athletic Hall of Fame and restrooms are located. The main gym is ahead to the right.


Seating consists of molded plastic bleachers on either side of the court. One smaller set of bleachers will be immediately in front of you. This is actually the preferred seating, as the larger bleachers on the far side of the court are set back a bit, offering a lesser vantage point.


Return on Investment 5


There is no charge for attendance at a Wildcat basketball game. During conference games, you’ll even get a chance to see both the men and women play – that’s two games for the price of none! Parking is free in the lots surrounding the Wildcat Center. With no concession stand on grounds, chances are you won’t even spend a cent while visiting Johnson and Wales.


Extras 1


The JWU Athletic Hall of Fame is located in the Wildcat Center lobby. Hanging from the rafters in the gym are banners commemorating conference championships and tournament appearances for all of Johnson and Wales teams.


Final Thoughts


The Wildcat Center is a bright and attractive facility that serves as a comfortable home for Johnson and Wales basketball. It provides a great counterpoint for the big-time (and big-cost) college basketball played just a few miles up the street.


Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.

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