Texas regents approve deal for new campus basketball arena

UT Rendering 

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — University of Texas regents on Thursday approved a plan to build a $300 million on-campus basketball arena to replace the 41-year-old Frank Erwin Center.

Plans call for the facility to be built across the street from the football stadium. Seating for basketball games would be capped at about 10,000 with space for 5,000 more for concerts and other events. The building is expected to open in 2021.

“We’re building one of the nation’s finest arenas that will provide an awesome home court advantage for our men’s and women’s basketball programs,” athletic director Chris Del Conte said.

The project pairs the university with Los Angeles-based Oak View Group in a lease arrangement. Oak View will build and manage the arena and provide about 60 days annually for men’s and women’s basketball games and other events. The building will not include practice facilities for the basketball programs.

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Texas needs the new arena because the Erwin Center is slated to be demolished to make room for the expanding medical school.

Actor Matthew McConaughey, a 1993 Texas graduate and investor in the project, has been dubbed the arena’s “Minister of Culture” to enhance the fan experience. The minister’s job is not a paying gig, a school spokesman said. McConaughey has been a visible figure and fan around Texas football games.

The project also partners with Austin-based C3 Presents and Live Nation to bring entertainment acts to the arena.

“It’s time to excel, on the court and in the stands. It’s time for an authentic home-court advantage for our Longhorn basketball teams,” McConaughey said in a statement. “Hook ’em.”

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Men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart called the new arena a “major step forward” for the program.

“We all want to give our players a true home court advantage,” he said. “For our students and fans, this new arena will create a completely new and improved game day experience.”