Moody Center makes debut

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 22, 2022 flipbook.

After seven years in development, including about two years of construction, UT’s $375 million Moody Center made its debut with its first public concert featuring singer-songwriter John Mayer on Wednesday.

Replacing the retired Frank Erwin Center, the new, nearly 16,000-seat facility will host Longhorn basketball games, concerts, tailgates and private and public events. The Center was developed by UT, Live Nation Entertainment/C3 Presents, entertainment company the Oak View Group and actor Matthew McConaughey.

“It’s a haven for students … from sports to entertainment, you have (it all) at your fingertips,” said Veronica Cantu, the vice president of Marketing for the Moody Center.

The venue, located on Robert Dedman Drive, realigns Red River street and creates a connection between downtown Austin, Dell Medical Center, the innovation district and the UT campus, according to a press release.

The Center implemented sustainable design strategies, including diverting 95% of construction waste from landfills through recycling materials, and preserving and relocating 200-year-old oak trees around the Dell Technologies Plaza. The venue also features murals by local artists, Cantu said.

“The real design principle that we pursued from the beginning was to … make it a destination for people, but also through the design and through the architecture, connect the city with the building and its goings-on visually,” said Laura Brodersen, Gensler’s lead project architect of the Moody Center.

Although the Moody Center is well equipped for concerts, with a capacity for 15,000 concertgoers, the facility was also built to be the new home of Texas basketball.

The Moody Center will seat around 10,000 on game days, which is a lower capacity compared to the 16,540-seat Frank Erwin Center.

But the new arena was designed to create a stronger home-court advantage for Texas’ basketball teams. Moody Center’s student section will wrap around both baselines and the sideline behind the player benches, allowing students to have a greater impact on games. According to Texas Athletics Director Chris Del Conte, Matthew McConaughey himself emphasized the idea of having 270 degrees of the lower bowl filled with students.

Del Conte cited the Kansas, Duke and Arizona student sections as models for the new arena. The student sections at the Erwin Center extended from the baselines towards the back of the arena, keeping most students far from the court.

“I’m so excited about just having a new facility,” said freshman Luke Allen, who frequents basketball games as a member of the Texas Wranglers spirit group. “I also believe that the smaller capacity will make the game crowd feel like it’s packed and loud.”

During high-demand games at the Erwin Center, the student sections filled up well over an hour before tipoff. This left an overflow of students placed on the second level, even further away from the court.

Junior Jonathan Stewart, also known as the “Hawaiian Shirt Guy,” can often be seen in the front row of games. The Erwin Center seating required him to show up early and sprint to secure limited front row space.

“Last year it was kind of tough for me to get my friends up on the front row with me,” Stewart said. “I’m looking forward to having so much more front row seating where I can get large groups of friends to come.”

The Moody Center also offers unprecedented access to the Texas teams for guests that are willing to pay. The Germania Insurance Club features large windows for season ticket holders to watch basketball players run out of the tunnel.

Both basketball teams are also anticipating the Moody Center’s impact on recruiting and player development. Just hours after the Moody Center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, New Mexico State transfer Jabari Rice announced his commitment to Texas.

“The best players in the world want to go to a program where everything is supported at the highest level,” men’s basketball head coach Chris Beard said. “And one of (the) examples of how to define that is facilities.”

Aside from the novelty of the Moody Center, the arena’s physical location also benefits player development. The short distance from the Moody Center to campus makes traveling from practice to class much easier. Many players had to drive to practice during the Erwin Center era.

A new practice facility is also in development to complement the Moody Center. Now that both basketball programs have received major upgrades, both head coaches are determined to deliver a quality product to match the new facility.

“It’ll require our best, night in and night out,” women’s basketball head coach Vic Schaefer said. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”