Fans are set to return to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center for PC basketball, P-Bruins hockey and more (Photo: PC Athletics)
By KEVIN McNAMARA
When fans of the Providence Bruins, Providence College Friars and World Wrestling Entertainment action come to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center this fall, they can keep their vaccination cards at home.
The Dunk is re-opening after a long, dormant 19 months with rules for fans that are not as stringent as many other arenas around New England, and the country. Ticket holders do not need to show proof of vaccination and face coverings for fully vaccinated patrons are encouraged, but not required.
The Dunk’s web site says its policy is `consistent with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Rhode Island Department of Health guidance,’ and delineates the following:
*Face coverings and social distancing for guests who are fully vaccinated is not required but is strongly encouraged per current recommendations from the CDC
*All guests two years of age and older who are not fully vaccinated must wear face coverings during their visit except while actively eating or drinking
*Guests do not need to show physical proof of being fully vaccinated
*Guests are urged to accurately follow the guidelines based on their vaccination status.
Joseph Wendelken, the public information officer at the Dept. of Health confirmed that officials “have been providing guidance to the Dunkin Donuts Center and many other organizations throughout Rhode Island throughout the pandemic.”
The first sporting event at the Dunk comes Saturday night when the P-Bruins host Springfield in a preseason game at 7:05 p.m. The PC Friars are scheduled to play an exhibition game against Stonehill Oct. 21.
When the WWE comes to town Nov. 1 for one of its always popular WWE Monday Night Raw shows, fans are being told via the Dunk’s website that “the Dunkin’ Donuts Center is currently following the Rhode Island State guidelines in collaboration with the WWE. At this point in time, masks and proof of vaccination are not required for attendance.”
The Dunk and neighboring R.I. Convention Center are both run by the Convention Center Authority and share the same Covid-19 guidelines. That means when Rhode Island Comic Con invades downtown Nov. 5-7 for what is annually the Convention Center’s biggest event, the same vaccination and masking rules will apply.
Lawrence Lepore, the general manager of both facilities, stressed that his staff will be wearing masks for all events and customers will be strongly encouraged to wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status. He also said individual event organizers reserve the right to alter entrance policies at their discretion.
“Some events will be different than others, we are leaving it up to the discretion of the organizer,” Lepore said. “The Providence Bruins will be operating under the American Hockey League’s policy, for example.”
The Dunk is also pushing mobile ticketing admission, credit card purchases for concession transactions, and encouraging keeping appropriate distance among patrons while on the concourse.
These guidelines differ markedly with many arenas and stadiums around the country. The TD Garden in Boston, for example, requires fans for all Celtics and Bruins home games age 12 and older to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a qualifying negative test result to enter the building.
Once inside, the City of Boston’s Indoor Mask Mandate remains in effect, requiring all guests age two and older to wear a mask, except while actively eating or drinking as permitted.
While the New England Patriots have encouraged fans to get vaccinated and offered Gillette Stadium as a major vaccination depot last spring and summer, the team has no COVID restrictions in place for games this fall. That’s unlike other NFL teams, including the Seattle Seahawks and (come Oct. 31) the Buffalo Bills which require vaccination for admission.
At the Ryan Center in Kingston, fans of the URI men’s and women’s basketball teams must abide by a universal indoor masking policy for all faculty, staff, students, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status.
The Dunk and the Convention Center have also partnered with the Rhode Island Department of Health to host several free vaccination clinics for its guests as they return to events. The first is schedule for Saturday night from 5:30 – 7:30 before the Providence Bruins game. Fans who have purchased tickets to that night’s game and get a vaccine will receive a Providence Bruins Swag Pack. Fans who do not have tickets receive two tickets to the game after receiving their shot.