Providence Civic Center

also known as Dunkin’ Donuts Center, The Dunk

A relatively recent construction for large sporting and entertainment events, modernized in the late 2000’s to connect to the Convention Center

About this Property


The Providence Civic Center was conceived several different times before finally getting the funding it needed. Mayor Dooley pushed hard for its construction. Built to replace The RI Auditorium, the Civic Center was intended to be a modern and central destination for sporting and touring events. More history of its inception from Wikipedia.

In 2006, the City started a $62 million dollar restoration of this sports and entertainment venue. The deterioration of the building and its continuing financial woes had been a dilemma for advocates of downtown development for several years. The Rhode Island Convention Center Authority was allowed to merge with the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, and the merger enabled the center to attract larger shows and conventions and streamline operations of The Dunk and the Convention Center immediately next door (and connected to the previously state-owned Westin).

The Center got 20 new luxury suites (or “boxes”), wider concourses, cushioned seats with cup holders, new sound system and video scoreboard, and upgraded team facilities, not to mention room for about 1000 more seats during sports and entertainment events. In addition, the brutalist themes of the architectural structure have been softened more of a concourse built on the Fountain Street side, clad in light tan/yellow brick and spans of glass.

Current Events

During the pandemic of 2020 and 2021, the Dunk served as a large-scale vaccination center. Since indoor events have started t return, the Center has slowly started to host sporting events again on a regular basis.


The Civic Center has hosted many notable events in its forty-plus year history. In 1973, the first full year it opened, the PC Friars of Ernie DiGregorio and Marvin Barnes made it to the NCAA Final Four in basketball. The Boston Celtics once played some home games there, and Marvin Hagler and Vinny Pazienza fought for world championships in the building. The Civic Center was a stop for the world’s greatest entertainers as well — Elvis Presley, Neil Young, Olivia Newton John, and Bruce Springsteen among others. During his time, Frank Sinatra made several stops in Providence. Whenever he appeared, state police detectives would scan the crowd for organized crime figures who had gotten choice seats near the stage. The center also hosted various “shows” — car shows, home shows, boat shows, Monster Trucks, and World Wrestling.

In 2001, the naming rights to the arena were sold to Dunkin’ Donuts, and the Center started to become known locally as “The Dunk”. In 2018, Dunkin’ Donuts corporate renamed and rebranded simply as “Dunkin,” and so now the building is officially known as the Dunkin Center.

From “Downtown Providence: Statewide Historical Preservation Report P-P-5,” prepared by the RIHPHC, May 1981

1 La Salle Square Providence Civic Center (1972): Ellerbee Associates, architect, 3’story, polygonal-plan, reinforced-concrete-and-steel frame structure with a flat roof; glass-and-steel entrance pavilion on facade. Part of the Weybosset Hill Redevelopment Project spawned by the city’s 1959 Master Plan, the Civic Center provides the largest indoor space in the state for concerts, exhibitions, and athletic events. Administered by an independent Civic Center Authority, it has been extremely successful in attracting major entertainers — from rock groups through Frank Sinatra to the Boston Pops — and in promoting exhibitions that draw audiences from all of southern New England. Its suprahuman monumentality is a radical departure from the scale of most buildings Downtown, but this contrast is minimized by its relative isolation near the comparably scaled interstate highway, away from the densely built part of the central business district.

In the News

Whither the Dunkin’ Donuts Center — A source of Civic pride?

by Gregory Smith
Providence Journal | November 15, 2004 (abridged)

Governor Carcieri and Mayor David N. Cicilline are knocking on the door again at the General Assembly, shopping the idea of merging the city-owned Dunkin’ Donuts Center with the state-owned Rhode Island Convention Center.

With the private sector showing little interest in paying to renovate the deteriorating Dunkin’ Donuts Center, a merger and a capital investment by the state are the chief executives’ answer to what ails The Dunk.

Legislative leaders hesitated last summer when the governor and mayor proposed about $25 million in borrowing to upgrade The Dunk and connect it to the convention center with a pedestrian bridge.

The proposal came too late in the Assembly’s 2004 session and was too big to be handled quickly, the leaders said.

An impatient Cicilline said he could not wait a year to do something about the badly needed improvements at The Dunk, and he advertised for private-sector interest in managing, renovating, leasing or even buying the city-owned arena. He said he was not optimistic that legislators would seriously consider the merger/investment proposal.

[…] The Dunk loses money on an operating basis and experts say the 13,000-seat arena needs millions of dollars in improvements, including the installation of premium seats that would entice patrons and boost revenues.

The needs include a new roof; updated seating and scoreboards; repair or replacement of electrical systems and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems; and an exterior facelift. […]

SMITH, GREGORY. “WHITHER THE DUNKIN’ DONUTS CENTER — A source of Civic pride?” Providence Journal (RI), All ed., sec. News, 15 Nov. 2004, pp. A-01. NewsBank: America’s News, Accessed 2 Jan. 2022.

Slam Dunk for the city

by Kevin McNamara
Providence Journal | July 3, 2005(abridged)

[…] The building formerly known as the Providence Civic Center is due for a $62-million overhaul that will change the facility from an outdated eyesore to a modern entertainment arena complete with many of the bells and whistles fans enjoy at arenas such as the just renamed TD Banknorth Garden in Boston.

According to a feasibility/renovation study commissioned by the Rhode Island Convention Center and signed off on by both the architectural firm of Ellerbe Becket and the Gilbane Building Company of Providence, the Dunk will be under various states of construction and repair starting this fall and lasting through the fall of 2008. While the architectural and construction contracts still need to be put out to bid and could be altered somewhat, James McCarvill, the Convention Center Authority director, said the authority is happy with the proposed changes.

“We’ve received a lot of input from the Providence Bruins and Providence College, and know what we need and can really work in this market,” McCarvill said. “It’s an exciting plan, and once we get over the hurdles of signing off on this deal and awarding the (design and construction) contracts, we want to be ready to go full speed ahead.”

Here are some of the major changes in a “new” Dunk:

  • Additions on both sidelines of the building will contain 20 luxury suites that will be sold to businesses and individuals. For an undetermined price, suite holders would receive tickets to all Providence Bruins and Friars games, as well as family shows such as the Ice Capades and the circus. They also would receive first rights to major concerts.
  • Below the suite level, fans would enjoy wider concourses with improved concession areas and food courts. On the Convention Center side of the building, a new weight room and team lounge would take up the floor level of the addition.
  • The bar area at the south end of the building will undergo extensive renovations. It will be transformed to include ledge seating, similar to premium seating areas at the Garden. Fans in those seats would have waiters and waitresses, or could walk back to a private club level/bar area.
  • The entire seating bowl will be repaired or replaced by cushioned seats with cup holders.
  • Customers at trade shows could move between a glass connector that takes traffic from the Dunk’s lobby to the Convention Center on the Sabin Street end of the building.
  • A new sound system and video scoreboard will be installed, as will other unseen mechanical improvements such as upgrades to heating/air conditioning, fire systems, and ice making.
  • The P-Bruins and Friars will move into upgraded locker rooms, as will visiting teams. Also, “star” dressing rooms for concert performers will be created.

McNAMARA, KEVIN. “Slam Dunk for the city.” Providence Journal (RI), All ed., sec. Sports, 3 July 2005, pp. C-01. NewsBank: America’s News, Accessed 2 Jan. 2022.