UT System Board of Regents approves new $338 million arena on UT campus

Stephen Wagner

Texas Athletics revealed in a press release Thursday that the University of Texas has partnered with Oak View Group, C3 Presents and Live Nation to bring a new basketball arena to the 40 Acres, just south of Mike A. Myers Stadium.

The innovative $338 million project will be at no cost to local taxpayers or to the University. It is expected to open in 2021.  

“This is a very exciting day for the University of Texas, our students, our fans, the entire University community and the City of Austin,” University of Texas President Gregory Fenves said at a Thursday press conference. “It’s a tremendous public benefit to the University and the city, and gives us this new home for events that are so important to our community.”

A far cry from the 16,734 seating capacity of the Frank Erwin Center, the Longhorns’ basketball arena and the location of numerous live events over the past 40 years, the new arena will have a capacity of 10,000, with the ability to expand to as many as 15,000.

As the Erwin Center has been unable to fill the stands for basketball games in recent years, athletic director Chris Del Conte saw little reason to build another 16,000 person arena with attendance averaging around 9,000 per home game.

“We have those moments where we have a Kansas game or a one-off game, but it’s like building a baseball stadium,” Del Conte said. “You don’t build it for the weekend series, you build it for the Tuesday game. A 10,000 seat arena is perfect for us. A sold-out arena has an unbelievable impact on the outcome of a basketball game, just like how this year, a sold-out football stadium created the magic for us to beat teams we’ve beaten (at DKR) this year.”

Naming rights to the new arena have not yet been sold, although Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke said, “We have had quite a few companies approach us, but that decision will be a decision between (OVG) and Chris (Del Conte) and the university.”

Notable Texas alumnus Matthew McConaughey managed to work his way into the negotiations as well, and will oversee the new arena as the “Minister of Culture,” a title that, according to Del Conte, McConaughey gave himself.  

“Understand, (Matthew) was in all of the negotiations,” Leiweke said. “Every ounce of the negotiations, he was really good. Having a guy like that — we’d be negotiating, we’d be arguing, we’d reach a settlement and we’d look at Matthew and go, ‘What do you think?’ and all you hear from him is ‘Alright, alright, alright.’”

The Erwin Center will remain the venue for Texas basketball and other live events until its demolition in 2021. Following its demolition, the space will be used for the expansion of the Dell Medical School.