Another 30 Years Of Dunkin’

Rhode Island officials are nearing the final stage of an agreement to buy and renovate Providence’s 33-year-old Dunkin’ Donuts Civic Center at a cost of $90.5 million.

The millions will be raised through a state bond issue that will be paid back over 30 years.

Dunkin’ Donuts Center Executive Director Lawrence Lapore said the plan has been in the works for about three years and was expected to be approved by the end of June.

“The legislative part is done. They’ve already appropriated the funds and issued a resolution to have the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority — the quasi-government agency that oversees the convention center — to purchase the Civic Center from the city,” Lapore told Pollstar. “What took the longest was the actual agreed price of what the state would pay the city for the property and the building.

“I think one of the things that the legislators really looked at was even at $90.5 million — which is a pretty hefty price tag — if you look to replace the building and acquire land, you’re talking $150 million. So even though $90 million is steep, I think they’re going to get a first-class, modern building that will be around for another 30 years.”

The 14,500-capacity arena, known as the Providence Civic Center for most of its life, has been losing money since the late 1980s. It is home to the American Hockey League’s Providence Bruins and Providence College’s men’s basketball team in addition to hosting concerts and other events.

“Last year was our best concert year in a number of years. We did 19 concerts,” Lapore said. “The concert business was up, but our biggest problem was we were taking operating capital and using it for capital improvements to keep the building up and running.”

Approximately $62.5 million will be put toward the renovation project, which needs to be completed in two years. Lapore said the venue will shut down during summer months for the bowl upgrade, and the rest will be done behind the scenes during the regular season.

Meanwhile, Providence officials and local union representatives also worked out a compromise to help with the cash crunch at Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

“As [state negotiations were] going on, there were other negotiations going on with the city and the unions. For instance we have, in the past month, reduced the labor force by some 17 positions. That will end up being almost a $400,000 savings,” Lapore said.

“I don’t think [the unions] wanted to be responsible for the building failing, so they really stepped up to the plate and negotiated something that was fair.”

He added that all employees who were laid off at Dunkin’ Donuts Civic Center were rehired for city positions that had not been filled.

Tina Amendola