Dunkin’ Donuts Center needs a new roof, but process could be lengthy

THE DUNKIN' DONUTS CENTER'S 50-year-old roof is in need of replacement. But some logistical challenges may make the project a lengthy process. / COURTESY DUNKIN' DONUTS CENTER
THE DUNKIN' DONUTS CENTER'S 50-year-old roof is in need of replacement. But some logistical challenges may make the project a lengthy process. / COURTESY DUNKIN' DONUTS CENTER

PROVIDENCE – The Dunkin’ Donuts Center had undergone significant structural changes back in the mid-2000s, including new seats, luxury boxes and new exterior entrance ways. But the one constant on the 13,000-seat arena has been its roof, which dates back to when the arena, originally called the Providence Civic Center, first opened in 1972.

Now, the roof significantly needs to be replaced, but some logistical challenges are slated to make the replacement process a bit lengthy.

R.I. Convention Center Authority Executive Director Daniel P. McConaghy told Providence Business News Friday the Dunkin’ Donuts Center getting 50 years with a single roof is “extraordinary and unheard of” given roofs normally have lifespans of 25 to 30 years. But, over the last year, the authority has been on “borrowed time” with the roof making various temporary fixes to it, he said.

McConaghy said the roof had “significant issues” over the summer. Most recently, water leaked onto the floor Feb. 23 during the Providence College men’s basketball game against Xavier University. That leak caused the game to be delayed for approximately 15 minutes.

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McConaghy said the roof has an “upside down bowl” design where water runs off to its perimeter where the drainage is located. Over time, he said, the roof’s perimeter deteriorated, warn and weathered. As a result, leaks were experienced near the drain areas and mechanical equipment. There was also a couple small leaks at the smoke evac system over the center of the arena’s roof, McConaghy said.

“We patched that and the perimeter. But it’s clear … we were in need of this roof replacement.”

When asked why the roof wasn’t addressed when the Dunkin’ Donuts Center underwent its extensive renovations starting in 2006, McConaghy said the roof was assessed at the time and it “was not leaking.” But McConaghy – who started with the convention center authority last year – said he feels there wasn’t enough money in the construction budget at that time to replace the roof and opted to address it at a later date if and when needed.

“It’s one of those decisions you make when you don’t have enough money in the budget,” McConaghy said.

McConaghy said the authority two months ago selected a company that specializes in roof design to develop a plan and a cost estimate see what can be done with the arena’s roof. McConaghy said early estimates show that it will cost $7.5 million to replace the roof.

Initially, the authority was going ask the state through the Rhode Island Capital Fund for money to finance the roof repairs, McConaghy said. Now, with the state receiving American Rescue Plan Act funds due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the roof repairs is part of the authority’s $47 million ARPA request to the state to help the authority recoup lost revenue and do other structural repairs to both the Dunkin’ Donuts Center and the R.I. Convention Center.

But that request, part of Gov. Daniel J. McKee’s budget proposal, needs General Assembly approval. McConaghy said he and authority representatives plan to testify over the next couple of months requesting state lawmakers to honor the authority’s request.

However, there are some logistical challenges standing in the way in getting the roof fixed quickly. In addition to inflation, McConaghy said there are material shortages in the marketplace.

One item that is short on supply is roof insulation, he said. He said the authority has been told that roof insulation has a 10-month lead time. “Even if we had the design finished today, we wouldn’t see that material until December or January,” McConaghy said.

Plus, McConaghy said the arena needs to remain open for events, including PC basketball and Providence Bruins home games that take up much of the calendar year. So, only the summertime when the Dunkin’ Donuts Center sees “the least amount of activity” is the best time for state officials to replace the roof.

Therefore, questions as to whether or not the entire roof can be replaced in a single phase in that short timeframe remain. McConaghy said it’s possible that the roof could be done in multiple phases over two years, first replacing the outer perimeter and then working toward the remaining center.

“Plus, when you take the roof off, you’re 100 feet in the air and how do you remove the material and protect the space below,” McConaghy said. “It’s complicated. There are a variety of variables that will drive the cost.”

If funds are secured, McConaghy hopes to replace the arena roof in one phase during the summer of 2023. If the project does go to two phases, McConaghy is eying a summer 2024 completion date. McConaghy expects a lot of “thoughtful questions” from the General Assembly in due time, but hopes the request is granted.

“I think our story is compelling,” he said. “I feel pretty good about our reasoning and logic. But I need to respect the process in both the House and Senate and get them comfortable.”

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.

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