|Former names||Providence Civic Center (1972-2001)|
|Location||101 Sabin Street
Providence, Rhode Island 02903
|Public transit||Providence Station|
|Owner||Rhode Island Convention Center Authority (2005-present)
City of Providence (1972-2005)
Ice hockey: 11,075
|Broke ground||January 1971|
|Opened||November 3, 1972|
|Construction cost||US$13 million
US$80 million (renovation)
|General contractor||Dimeo Construction Company|
|Providence Bruins (AHL) (1992-present)
Providence Friars (NCAA) (1972-present)
Providence/Rhode Island Reds (AHL) (1972-1977)
New England Tea Men (NASL) (1979-1980)
New England Steamrollers (AFL) (1988)
The Dunkin' Donuts Center (originally Providence Civic Center) is an indoor arena located in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. It was built in 1972, as a home court for the emerging Providence College men's basketball program, due to the high demand for tickets to their games in Alumni Hall, as well as for a home arena for the then-Providence Reds, who played in the nearly 50-year-old Rhode Island Auditorium. Current tenants include the Providence Bruins, of the AHL and the Providence College men's basketball team.
The idea for a Civic Center in Providence had been proposed as early as 1958, on the site of what later became the Providence Place Mall. The project was proposed as a joint federal-state-city project, which would create jobs and bring economic benefits. However, the plan failed due to the inability to secure federal funds.
The plan was revived again as a statewide bond issue in the 1968 general election; voters outside of Providence soundly defeated the referendum. Finally, mayor Joseph A. Doorley Jr. pushed through a citywide special referendum in 1969, which passed. When this amount proved to be inadequate, Doorley pushed through another referendum in 1971, which also passed. The project became so closely associated with Mayor Doorley that it was referred to in the press as "Doorley's Dream."
The Providence Civic Center was constructed in 1972 on the site of an old jewelry factory. The opening ceremony was held November 3, 1972, with a Providence Reds hockey game. President Richard Nixon, campaigning in the area, was invited to the attend the opening, but he declined. In its first year, the center hosted concerts by Pink Floyd and Frank Sinatra, as well as hockey games and political rallies, and was considered a success.
In October 1974, Civic Center director Harold Copeland was convicted of soliciting a $1,000 bribe from a concert promoter. The conviction, occurring a month before election day, thrust prosecutor Vincent Cianci into the Mayor's office and ended Doorley's political career.
Frank Sinatra performed 10 times at the then-Providence Civic Center. His first was to a sold-out crowd including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis for his Variety Club International Tour on April 15, 1974 and the last on October 3, 1992. During many of Sinatra's performances, Rhode Island State Police would attend, searching for organized crime members in the audience. During a 1979 appearance in Providence, Mayor Buddy Cianci named Sinatra an honorary fire chief, complete with a helmet bearing the name "F. SINATRA" with nickname "Ol' Blue Eyes" beneath.
Former Beatle George Harrison held a concert here on December 11, 1974, during his "Dark Horse Tour" (so called because it occurred near the launch of Harrison's Dark Horse Records). Performers included Harrison, Ravi Shankar, Jim Keltner, and Billy Preston. At one point in the show, a girl tried to climb onstage, but was stopped and assaulted by police; Harrison stopped mid-song and shouted "Krishna! Krishna!".
The Who played here on December 13, 1975
In 1979, Mayor Cianci cancelled a concert at the Civic Center by the rock band The Who. Cianci cancelled the performance after hearing about a Who concert in Cincinnati earlier that month where 11 fans had been trampled to death. 33 years later, the band returned to Providence and announced they would honor any tickets from the 1979 show. Ten fans, now middle-aged, traded in 14 tickets to see the performance.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Civic Center fell into decline; it required city bailouts and was seen as a financial problem.
In 2001, as a means of increasing financing, the arena was named the Dunkin' Donuts Center as part of a naming-rights deal with Dunkin' Donuts. In December 2005, the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority purchased the building from the city of Providence and spent $80 million on an extensive renovation. Major elements of the construction included a significantly expanded lobby and concourse, an enclosed pedestrian bridge from the Rhode Island Convention Center, a new center-hung LED video display board, a new restaurant, 20 luxury suites, four new bathrooms, and all-new seats with cupholders in the arena bowl. Behind-the-scenes improvements included a new HVAC system, ice chiller, and a first-of-its-kind fire suppression system. These renovations were completed in October 2008.
During a live performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus on May 4, 2014, eight female performers were sent to the hospital after a high wire snapped while they were attempting a routine where they hang by their hair high above the floor. The performers fell from between 25 and 40 feet to the ground, but none suffered life-threatening injuries. On May 1, 2016, Ringling Bros. ended 145 years of tradition when they staged their last-ever performance with live elephants at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. Eleven elephants headed to Florida for retirement after the show.
The Providence Friars men's basketball team has been the only major tenant of the arena since its inception, having played almost all of its home basketball games at the arena since 1972. The Providence men's basketball team and their fans have made the Dunk one of the most intimidating environments in recent years for NCAA basketball. On rare occasions, the Providence women's basketball team has played "home" games in the arena, most notably for games against URI or the University of Connecticut, where demand for tickets would be enough to warrant an arena larger than the 1,854-seat Alumni Hall.
The arena has been the site of many collegiate tournaments, including the inaugural 1980 Big East Conference men's basketball tournament; the Division I men's basketball ECAC New England Region Tournament, organized by the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), in 1978 and 1979;NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament first- and second-round games in 1976, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1989, 1996, 2010, and 2016; the 1978 and 1985 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament East Region finals; the inaugural 1985 Hockey East Tournament, as well as the second tournament a year later in 1986 before the tourney made Boston a permanent home; and the 1978, 1980, 1982, 1986, 1995 and 2000 NCAA Frozen Four ice hockey championships. The University of Rhode Island (URI) men's basketball team also played some home basketball games at the Providence Civic Center beginning in 1973, although this practice stopped with the opening of the Ryan Center in 2002.
The Providence Reds (later known as the Rhode Island Reds) hockey team of the American Hockey League (AHL) played at the Providence Civic Center from 1972 to 1977. The New England Tea Men of the North American Soccer League (NASL) played their indoor soccer matches there from 1979-1980 before moving south to Jacksonville, Florida at the start of the 1980-81 indoor season. The Providence Bruins of the AHL began play at the arena in 1992. The New England Steamrollers of the Arena Football League also called the arena home for their single season of existence in 1988.
A number of other professional sporting events, including Harlem Globetrotters basketball games and preseason games for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA) have been held at the arena.
The arena has long been a regular stop on WWE tours. It was the site of WWF King of the Ring tournaments four times: from 1987 to 1991, before the event became a pay-per-view, and once after in 1997. In 1994, it hosted the Royal Rumble. On April 25, 1999, the arena was home to the first WWF Backlash pay-per-view event, and the 2009 edition of the event (the last until 2016) was held there ten years to the day. In December 2005 the arena hosted WWE Armageddon. The January 13, 2014 edition of WWE Raw was filmed at the arena. WWE Smackdown filmed two shows at the arena in 2015, on April 21 and August 25.
The arena before Monster Jam, prior to renovations
Syracuse vs. Providence College men's basketball game in February 2010