An ‘Aha!’ Experience for Student-Athletes at Providence College

An athletics and recreation facilities improvements campaign launched a decade ago at Providence College not only has taken root but is drawing critical acclaim

Two of the College’s varsity intercollegiate athletics facilities, Ray Treacy Track and Schneider Arena, earned national recognition from independent entities this past fall. Ray Treacy Track, which opened in fall 2013, received the Track & Field Facility of the Year Award from the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA).

Schneider Arena, where major renovations and an addition were completed in 2013, was selected for “Outstanding Design” by American School & University magazine. Combined, the outdoor track and the hockey arena are home to eight of the Friars’ varsity men’s and women’s athletics teams. The two facilities are the latest in a string of athletics and recreation infrastructure upgrades PC initiated on its 105-acre campus in 2005 when the all-weather-turf Lennon Family Field opened to serve the field hockey and men’s lacrosse teams.

That project was followed in subsequent years by the construction of the Concannon Fitness Center, which includes a varsity weight room for student-athletes; the Canavan Sports Medicine Center; the renovation of Joe Mullaney Gym in Alumni Hall, where the women’s basketball and volleyball teams play; and extensive renovations to Taylor Natatorium, where the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams practice and compete.

And while not on campus, the men’s basketball team-PC’s premier athletic team-benefitted from major renovations completed in 2008 to its home arena at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in downtown Providence.

First-class Facilities Bolster Recruiting and Reputation

“It has always been my goal for our student-athletes and coaches to compete in the finest athletic facilities in the nation,” said Robert. G. Driscoll, Jr., associate vice president for athletics and athletic director. “We have been working towards that goalfor the last 10 years. Through the support of our college president, Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., and our wonderful donors, we have been able to enhance the experience of our student athletes and transform Providence College into a top-notch Division I athletic institution.”

Driscoll, who began serving as PC athletic director in 2001, said first-class training and competition facilities bolster both the recruiting efforts and the reputation of his institution, which has an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 3,900.

“We want to design facilities that will help student-athletes be the best they can be. You want facilities that will be an ‘Aha!’experience when prospective student-athletes walk in the door. You have one chance to make a first impression,” said Driscoll, whose school competes in the BIG EAST and Hockey East athletic conferences.

Outdoor Track Meets NCAA Standards

Ray Treacy Track, named in honor of PC’s longtime men’s and women’s cross country and indoor and outdoor track coach, Ray Treacy, was one of five tracks cited in the Distinguished Track & Field Facilities category by the ASBA. Facilities recognized in the association’s annual awards program are those which are built by ASBA members and which best exemplify excellence in design and construction.

The College’s first outdoor track features a six-lane, polyurethane surface and has eight-lane straightaways. It is the primary training facility for the Friars’ men’s and women’s cross country and track programs, and it meets NCAA standards. In fact, last spring, PC hosted its first outdoor track and field meet at the new facility, which has seating for more than 300, a press box, a scoreboard, and lighting for nighttime use. The track encompasses a turf field, where PC’s varsity men’s and women’s soccer teams practice and play.

Treacy, who is in his 31st year as a coach at PC, said “no stone was left unturned” in the construction of the new track. “It is the type of facility we need for the type of student-athletes we have,” he said. Those student-athletes use the facility for speed and pace workouts. Its spongy surface ensures safe footing for use in inclement weather nearly year-round. “It’s beautiful. I couldn’t want for anything else,” said Treacy, whose women’s cross country team won the NCAA Championship in 2013 and 1995.

Athletes and Fans Benefit from Arena Upgrades

Schneider Arena, home to PC’s men’s and women’s ice hockey teams, was on

e of seven higher-education facilities recognized by American School & University in the category of Outstanding Designs: Sports Stadiums/Athletics Facilities. Built in 1973, the arena underwent an eight-month facelift in 2013 that resulted in a 30,000-square-foot addition and major renovations to the 60,000-square-foot original arena. Design work was done by Symmes Maini & McKee Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The extensive project included a new atrium, ticket office, concession stands, coaches’ offices, shooting room, hockey locker rooms and meeting rooms, lacrosse office and locker room facilities, athletic training room, a strength and conditioning facility, and press box.

Other new enhancements were five luxury suites, additional ADA-compliant viewing locations, dasher boards, a video board, video/ ribbon boards, and scoreboards. A large lounge/meeting room also was renovated at the arena, which seats nearly 3,000.

“The new building is tremendous,” said Nate Leaman, PC’s men’s ice hockey coach. “In renovating Schneider Arena, we wanted to create the best building possible in which to develop our players. We also wanted to provide a great fan experience, and we have exceeded those goals.” Bob Deraney, the Friars’ women’s ice hockey coach, said the improvements make Schneider Arena “the best women’s hockey training facility in the country.” Driscoll, PC’s athletic director, said the new track and hockey facilities, along with the other work accomplished since 2005, are key components of PC’s goal to be one of the top athletics programs in the country. To that end, he said the school plans additional construction projects during the next two years. Construction of a soccer and lacrosse stadium is expected to begin this spring, and new homes will be built for the women’s tennis and softball teams.

The new construction will make PC “the model program in the nation” among Division I-AAA schools-those that do not sponsor football-within the next two years. “We’ll have as nice an infrastructure of athletics facilities as anyone,” said Driscoll.

Recruiting Topnotch Student-Athletes

Varsity athletics first appeared on the Providence College campus in 1929.

Since that time, Providence College has been known for its successful Friar athletic teams. Providence College currently ranks 20th of 195 institutions in the Final Fall Standings of the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup, released on January 15, 2015. During the fall, the Friars were the top-ranked Division I non-FBS/FCS institution in the rankings. Providence is also the top-ranked institution among Division I non-FBS/FCS colleges and universities.

Last year, the Friars finished 71st in the final Learfield Directors’ Cup Standings among 297 institutions, and Providence finished second in the nation among Division I non-FBS/FCS institutions. Additionally, Providence was one of just five non-football playing institutions inside the top-100 in the final Directors’ Cup standings


About the Author
Charles C. Joyce is the director of editorial services in the Division of Marketing and Communications at Providence College.