URI to open $54 million
Thomas M. Ryan Center
with weekend celebrations
Completed five months ahead of schedule
KINGSTON, R.I. -- June 20, 2002 With a gala celebration on Friday night for major donors and supporters and a community open house on Sunday, the University of Rhode Island will officially open its $54 million, 8,000-seat Thomas M. Ryan Center this weekend.
The opening, which marks completion of the two-year construction project, the largest in the 110-year-history of the University, is five months ahead of the original November 2002 target. The University is also celebrating the successful conclusion of the $15 million private fund drive that helped support the project. Financing for the $54 million Convocation Center project includes the $15 million in private donations, $18 million in state appropriations and $21 million in revenue bonds.
On Friday night, URI will honor donors and other key supporters with a gala celebration starting at 6 p.m., and then on Sunday the Center will open its doors for all Rhode Islanders from 1 to 4 p.m. with interactive games, music and tours of the building. The Sunday event is free.
The Center is named in honor of URI graduate Thomas M. Ryan, chairman and chief executive officer of CVS Corp. and co-chair of the fund-raising campaign. The naming of The Ryan Center became official only two weeks ago when the General Assembly approved the measure. The legislature also approved the naming of the north plaza in honor of URI graduate Gov. Lincoln Almond, co-chair of the campaign and a strong supporter of the project since the spring of 1996.
Rhode Island lighthouses were the inspiration for the design of the three towers, marking the north and south entrances of The Ryan Center.
A number of features make the Center one of the premiere athletics and entertainment venues in New England. As the new home to URIs mens and womens basketball, it will also host family entertainment, concerts and other community events. Among its features are:
o No seat is more than 74 feet from the basketball floor.
o The east concourse and eight luxury boxes (one is reserved for the president and another is for the athletic director) overlook the football field, allowing the facility to be enjoyed for football games as well as basketball and cultural/entertainment events.
o The two largest video screens at any venue in Rhode Island.
o The facility can be converted easily into an intimate concert hall seating 3,000.
o A portable stage is available for concerts and performance events and the event floor can seat up to 500 for a banquet.
o Television and video production equipment that will allow events to be broadcast in the arena even when over-the-air and/or cable outlets are not covering an event.
"The Center was made possible because of a great partnership between state government and many dedicated alumni and friends of URI," Almond said. "This center reflects URIs commitment to excellence in both academics and athletics, and also gives URI basketball teams an opportunity to compete for the most talented student-athletes across the world. I am proud to have worked with University officials, business leaders, alumni, and legislators to make this a home where all Rhode Islanders can enjoy great basketball games, outstanding concerts, and stimulating cultural programs," said the first URI alumnus to serve as governor.
Ryan said it is an honor to welcome the community to the new Center. "This world-class facility is the centerpiece of URI's athletic and recreational complex, and it is my hope that it will benefit both URI and the entire state of Rhode Island," Ryan said. "URI is a tremendous academic, cultural, and economic asset to our state. This Center is the result of a successful partnership between private businesses such as CVS/pharmacy, along with state government and proud alumni, and I am thankful for the opportunity to be part of this effort to give back to the University."
URI President Robert L. Carothers remarked on the Centers role in the Universitys dramatic improvement and growth over the last 10 years.
"Anyone who has been paying attention to URI over the past few years, knows that we are in the midst of an unprecedented building boom, which has included renovation and expansion of residence halls, new and refurbished academic buildings and, of course, the completion of The Ryan Center," Carothers said.
Like The Ryan Center, a number of the building projects were made possible by funding from bond issues and/or private donations.
"We celebrate the opening of this extraordinary building, a place where we envision breathtaking victories, rousing concerts, and stirring cultural programs. Few people, including me, believed that we would be completing this building on time and on budget, but no two people were more instrumental in making that happen than Governor Almond and Tom Ryan. We salute the governor for his leadership, and recognize him with the naming of the Almond Plaza. We know no more fitting tribute for Tom than to forever refer to this building as The Ryan Center."
Carothers also said the weekend celebrations would not be possible without the success of the Convocation Center Campaign. "Private giving to this project was essential, and hundreds of alumni, friends, foundations, and corporations helped us to exceed our expectations."
For Further Information: Linda Acciardo 401-874-2116, Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116