by Hannah Langley ’21
Providence College is known for its excellence in many areas: academics, faith life, and athletics, most notably basketball. Recently, PC’s athletic department has made its newest athletic facility, the Ruane Friar Development Center, open to PC’s Division I teams for recreational use and accessible to the PC community.
The new center features high tech equipment and high-quality practice facilities to provide student athletes with the best training and experience possible. The center includes study rooms accessible to all PC students, two practice basketball courts for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, and a state-of-the-art weight room for the basketball teams and men’s soccer team. Other amenities include a cryogenic machine, massage chairs, sleep pods, kitchens, lounges, and a barber shop for all athletes.
Bob Driscoll, PC’s associate vice president and athletics director, commented that this center has been a work in progress for nearly 10 years, and plans went into effect about five years ago. “We were creating a vision for it,” said Driscoll, “from hiring architects to getting fundraising to everything else, it was about a five-year process, and construction started a year ago in May.”
Driscoll and Steven Napolillo, senior associate athletic director, emphasized the fact that the new center was built almost entirely from donations by PC alumni and members of the PC community. Out of the $30 million spent to build and furnish the center, about $20 million came from donors and benefactors, according to Napolillo. Driscoll stated that the massive financial support from the PC community makes this center the most fundraiser-supported building on campus.
Among those who donated, Michael and Elizabeth Ruane were the largest benefactors, as well as Joseph Calabria, who made a large donation in support of the statue of coaches Joe Mullaney and David Gavitt. They are located outside the center’s main entrance. Calabria talked about the importance of fundraising in PC’s mission to advance and build its reputation. “It’s the only way we can get ourselves to move ahead so rapidly.”
While the construction of a new athletic facility may seem controversial to many students, Driscoll and Napolillo wanted to clarify that the athletic program and sports teams at PC are an important part of the PC community and experience. Driscoll mentioned that 85 percent of PC’s student body were high school athletes, and basketball has become one of the institution’s largest brands, making the new center a draw for prospective students and student athletes. The center also helps the basketball teams continue to improve and grow in their success, which attracts more students.
“Basketball helps mark PC across the country from an admissions standpoint,” Driscoll stated. He continued by arguing the fact that by investing in the student athletes, the school is investing in the institution and the creation of a strong family community. “A successful basketball program is a main way to bring community together. When we win, we all get to celebrate together,” said Driscoll.
Calabria believes that PC is currently in its “golden years of sports” and is looking forward to its athletic successes in the coming years. He acknowledged Coach Cooley’s success in winning two national championships and for the success of the PC community in the development of various athletic facilities in the past several years, including the renovations to the soccer and field hockey stadiums.
In the spirit of community, Driscoll wanted to make it clear that parts of the center are still open to all PC students for use. A number of the study lounges in the center are open to the public for recreational use, whether that be for doing work by yourself, in a group, or just hanging out with friends. “I want the community to feel like it’s open to everyone,” said Driscoll. “These are multi-purpose facilities,” Driscoll stated, “and all our athletic facilities are shared community facilities, which is something unique to PC.”
Calabria noted his enthusiasm and pride in the completion of the new center, mentioning how the vision took a lot of planning and collaboration from many people. Napolillo emphasized this point, saying, “A building like this is a symbol of thinking big and is a symbol of success for PC.”
The Ruane Friar Development Center is currently open to the entire PC community. Entrances to the building can be found next to the Ray Tracey Track and Hendricken Field or near the Santander ATM in lower Slavin.