Relationships between cities and schools enable events to flourish in the Ocean State

With multiple top colleges and universities in its back yard, Rhode Island is blessed with an abundance of exemplary locations in which it can host sporting events.

The partnership between the Rhode Island Sports Commission and those schools is symbiotic, with each entity helping the other prosper. The colleges allow the commission to utilize their facilities when hosting events, which helps Rhode Island attract upper-echelon competitions. In turn, the local communities get a significant economic boost when they host these events.

As a result of these partnerships, and Rhode Island’s own private facilities, the state has hosted a slew of prestigious competitions over the years, including the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the NCAA hockey tournament and lacrosse competitions. Providence, in particular, is home to multiple outlets of higher education, including Brown University, Providence College, Rhode Island College and Bryant University, all of whom sport excellent facilities.

“We have some great partners,” said John Gibbons, executive director of the Rhode Island Sports Commission. “Brown University, Providence College, Bryant University and University of Rhode Island have great indoor and outdoor facilities.

Providence College Sports

Providence College

“(These schools) have partnered with us on several events,” Gibbons added. “For example, we have partnered with Brown University to host NCAA men’s lacrosse. We hosted a lacrosse event back in 2017 and we were awarded it again in 2024. We’ve also been awarded for the first time, and I’m thrilled to get it, the Division III men’s wrestling championships. It’s a nice event (it will be held at Johnson & Wales University in Providence).”

Much like the other schools in the city, Providence College, which features several spectacular facilities including the Taylor Natatorium (primarily used by the school’s men’s and women’s swimming teams), Lennon Family Field (home to the college’s field hockey team) and Schneider Arena (the college hockey team plays here), has numerous facilities the city can utilize.

“Providence College and the Rhode Island Sports Commission have partnered to bring a number of great NCAA Tournament events to the Ocean State over the years,” said Providence College Director of Athletics Bob Driscoll. “These events are important to the college, the City of Providence and the State of Rhode Island.  Not only do the events bring a significant economic impact to Rhode Island, but they have helped to showcase so many of the great qualities of our state.”

Of which, there are many.

Fabulous food and shopping options

Providence is a must-visit destination that often lands on “Best of” lists. For instance, it has been called the “Best city for foodies,” the “No . 4 quirkiest city in America,” and the “No. 3 favorite U.S.” city, to name a few. The fact it is a culinary dynamo certainly helps when entities like the NCAA are contemplating which city will host an event.

“Providence has one of the best restaurant communities in the nation,” Gibbons said. “This culinary city has received dozens of awards. Johnson & Wales is the largest culinary school in the country. So, you can imagine how vibrant our culinary institution is here. We don’t have a lot of chain restaurants. We have a lot of private, independent restaurants.”

Providence also features a multitude of renowned shopping establishments that range from boutiques to department stores. One such example is Providence Place, which offers visitors more than 170 shopping, dining and entertainment options. Funky urban chic can be found at the many boutiques on Thayer and Wickenden streets while Garden City Center in nearby Cranston offers a unique mix of sophisticated shops, eateries and boutiques. Located just 10 minutes from Providence, its charming village design invites open-air shopping for all seasons.

Coping with COVID-19

While COVID-19 continues to hamper every state in the country, Rhode Island considers the safety of all visitors the utmost importance and has plans in place to ensure visitors will remain healthy while enjoying their time in Rhode Island.

“We have a safety plan and I will tell you, it evolves all the time,” Gibbons said. “Both for indoor and outdoor sports as well as business meetings. That will continue to evolve. We have a person on our staff who’s certified and dedicated, Erin Degulis, director of convention services. She has been wonderful through this process.”

The partner schools are adhering to Rhode Island’s COVID-19 response and reopening efforts and are primed and ready to invite guest back when the state fully reopens.

“I know the rights holders are ready to go and we will provide new standards,” Gibbons said. “We have new safety protocols in place. Every time you want to bring an event to Providence, we have to submit a safety plan to the state for approval and I have seen some wonderful safety plans.

“We are prepared to be up and running.”

By Jason Paha