Greater City Providence

Woe is The Dunk

Yesterday’s Journal reported on the financial constraints at the Dunkin Donuts Center. While the shiny new Dunk opened to much fanfare and promises of increased income for the state (the Dunk’s owner) and visitors to the city, we all know that the economy jumped off a cliff and took all those revenue and visitors with it.

Certainly the economy has hurt the Dunk, but also, I never have any idea what is happening at the Dunk. The old Dunk had a seriously old variable message sign out front that advertised upcoming events.


As you can see above, the Dunk hosted Hillary Duff in July of 2005 (the sign also says it was 115°, I can assure you, it was not). Though there was an LED screen in earlier renderings of the renovated arena, it was phased out of later renderings as the price of renovations rose over time. So now there is no passive way to see what is coming up at the Dunk.


I mean if you knew the Dunk was hosting a Beatles Reunion tonight you would have totally bought tickets, right? A big LED screen costs a pretty penny, which is why it was dropped I would assume, but having something outside that advertises events helps get people in the door. How many people drove by the Dunk recently blissfully unaware that the Flower Show or Boat Show was taking place inside? And how many people would have stopped and paid admission had they realized what they were missing. Sadly, it is probably not gonna happen in this economic climate. And it is probably not appropriate to use stimulus money for it. Too bad, I love big bright signs.

While I’m talking about the Dunk, I have to say something about the entrance facing the Hilton. Perhaps the landscaping there will be finished up this spring. I hope so because right now it is just some asphalt paths and some sad little plantings. Here’s a before image:


This was actually a nice little space that no one knew was there. I would walk by every day and didn’t realize there were benches until I walked down the alley to take this picture.

Here’s what the renderings showed:


Stunning? No, but certainly better than the asphalt paths and sad plants that are there now. Maybe people could get lattes to go at Starbucks and sit at those little cafe tables at the Dunkin Donuts Center and drink them. That’d be funny.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • I am actually a little optimistic about the Dunk’s future. The downturn in event center and convention revenue is not isolated to Providence alone, it is the result of a cyclical economic downturn that has affected other places equally if not harder.

    Arenas around the country are having a tough time selling entertainment given the current state of things. Despite this, the arena has managed to sign a pro-wrestling pay per view event and the first 2 rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament next year. Both are sure fire revenue generators.

    Both events are considered blue chip prospects as far as the arena management business goes and the bidding process for both, especially the NCAA tournament are extremely competitive. Given that the Dunk has managed to latch onto both in current economic circumstances is reason for my optimism.

  • Also, the Dunk needs to try its hand at boxing or MMA in the future. Both sports are bucking the recession trend and showing strong pay per view and attendance numbers. Even a place as depressed as Youngstown, Ohio manages to turn out huge attendance figures for local fighter Kelly Pavlik.

    If we could showcase some local prospects at the Dunk, like Vinny Paz in the 80’s it would be even better for the venue.

  • I’m optimistic about the Dunk too. I’m sure if we weren’t in the dire financial straits we are in, all would be fine at the Dunk. It’s well positioned to emerge from the recession and we may emerge sooner as event organizers look to cheaper cities like Providence as their first steps back into spending money.

    I wonder if the Dunk would benefit from landing a smaller sports franchise like Arena Football, LaCrosse, or the WNBA. I’m not a sports fan so I don’t know how these fringe sports are actually doing. But it seems we have good attendance still for PC sports and P-Bruins games. Could another franchise attract regular attendance? Or is this the wrong economic climate to try something like that?

  • Actually Arena Football is doing pretty badly. The league had to cancel its season this year for financial reasons. Lacrosse and WNBA are as you say fringe sports. I don’t think the risk of using the Dunk for these sports is worth the investment. The best way to move it forward is to continue to grow the PC and Bruins franchises.

  • I know they like the Ryan Center, but it’d be nice to see URI play more home games at the Dunk as they grow their team. It’d be like UConn playing in Hartford rather than Gampel.

  • this would be why so many folks were worked up about the Ryan Center–that it would take too much business away from the Civic Center.

    I can’t imagine a scenario where the Rams play in Providence when they have the Ryan Center, but I suppose stranger things have happened.

  • I know it’s apples and oranges, but UConn plays some home games (not many) on campus, while most are in Hartford. UConn has a very nice arena on campus (Gampel Pavilion). UConn is a bigger draw than URI (especially with PC around), but URI could start by playing some of their bigger games at the Dunk and may switch to play a small percentage of games there with the majority at the Ryan Center.

    What needs to happen is the state and city should make a bigger deal out of the PC-URI game. It’s always a sellout. They should also play an exhibition game (as long as the NCAA would allow it) or something rather than just a regular season game.

  • The DDC purchase and renovation was complete snow job on RI taxpayers. It was never a really viable project from a financial standpoint. The booking projections were far too optimistic even in good times. It is not the early 70’s again. The DDC must now compete with many other venues in this area for a limited number of events. It is not surprising it is struggling. I however think it is foolish to pin its troubles soley on the economy as that is just one of the reasons for its plight.

    It is unbelievable that 100 million was spent on such a project in these dire economic times. RI was already in financial difficulty when this project was conceived. It went far over budget and the state through even more money at it. What other project would be treated like this? Prominent supporters of Providence College basketball were hellbent on making this prohject a reality. The impetus for this came from the RI Convention Center Authority. Not surprisingly the RICC Authority Board is packed with big supporters of PC. The chairman David Duffy is a PC graduate, former PC BOT member, and business partner of the current PC President. The vice chairman was none other than Dave Gavitt, former PC basketball coach and Athletic Director. They got their freinds in the RI General Assembly such as former Senate President Montalbano (a longtime PC season ticket holder) to go along with them. They strongarmed this ill-concieved project onto Rhode Islanders. All the money for this project is backed by RI taxpayers and there is no cap on their investment. The private sector was in way utilized to help finance this.

    The result we now have is the DDC is having finaical difficulties and taxpayers will now have to contribute even more during a time when basic social programs and education cannot even be adequatelty funded. What does it say about a state when it can feed, cloth, and eductae its citizens but it finds money to fund a white elephant arena to entertain them?

    And what of our so called leaders? They are laughing their tails off at what they did to RI taxpayers while sitting comfortably in their new seats at PC basketball games. And how about Providence College? They seem to be doing quite well making money off the newly renovated arena. They even upped their seat licensing fees for the right to puchase season tickets citing the renovation they had no financial part in as a reason. PC is expected to double is net from these fees as it expects to take in well over 1 million dollars a year. I guess everyone is a winner except RI taxpayers.

  • I think they’ve found the cure to the slumping Dunk ticket sales. A friend recently told me about a new Professional Football franchise making the Dunk it’s home, and after some research, sure enough, the New England Euphoria of the LINGERIE FOOTBALL LEAGUE is scheduled to play two games in October 2009. Our worries are over!!

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