For 44 years, the Erwin Center has stood as a drum-shaped Austin landmark. The arena hosted major musical artists, University of Texas basketball games, commencements, UFC matches, high school sports playoffs, circuses, the Harlem Globetrotters and much more.
Now, it’s time for something new.
The Moody Center, which opens April 19, will be the new home for men’s and women’s Longhorn basketball as well as a major concert venue. Plans were first announced in 2018 to build the new, state-of-the-art events center for the university and the Austin community and to demolish the Erwin Center to make room for a future expansion of Dell Medical School.
“The Erwin Center has served Texas Athletics, our campus and the city of Austin extremely well for 45 years,” Athletics Director Chris Del Conte says. “We are so excited about the future home of our Texas basketball teams and can’t wait to see the high-energy environment and raucous atmosphere it’s going to provide for our student-athletes, students across campus and fans alike.”
A $130 million grant to UT from the Moody Foundation in 2019 helped bring the project to life; it is the single largest gift from a foundation in the university’s history. And the university is collaborating with arena developer the Oak View Group to finance and operate the center.
Jeff Nickler, senior vice president of Arena Alliance at the Oak View Group and general manager of the Moody Center, says his business has developed arenas all over the world, but he’s particularly proud of this one. “I can’t name a whole lot of other more exciting places to be right now based upon the growth of the city and the public and private investment, everything happening,” he says. “It’s a special place, a special time.”
The university provided the land and infrastructure, Nickler says, while Oak View Group, promoter Live Nation/C3 Presents, and actor and Moody College of Communication professor of practice Matthew McConaughey together have invested $338 million to build the arena. The university will own the land and building, he says, while Oak View will have a 35-year agreement to manage the venue’s day-to-day operations. UT will get to use the venue for about 60 days a year, primarily for basketball, and the rest of the calendar will be filled with concerts and live entertainment.
“If there’s ever a case where we don’t get an artist in the building, it’s probably because we just didn’t have a date available,” Nickler says. “We really feel like this is going to be a must-play venue.”
It was important that the building, with a large outdoor terrace with views of Royal-Memorial Stadium and the UT Tower, feel like a part of the city, Nickler says. “This isn’t just some cookie-cutter venue design that we picked up and plopped in Austin. Everything was designed and developed to feel right for Austin,” he says.
The arena will have more than 15,000 seats for concerts, but the building also was designed with the Longhorn basketball teams in mind. Mesh acoustical panels can close and cover the upper bowl to create a more intimate 10,000-seat arena for games, and seats can be moved all the way down to the court so students can be on top of the action, Nickler says.
“When you come in as a UT fan, it will feel like the greatest home court advantage in the country,” Nickler says.