In a very unique private investment in a university sports and event facility, a group led by the Oak View Group (OVG) that includes actor Matthew McConaughey will build a new $338-million arena on the University of Texas at Austin (UT) campus, set to be home to university men’s and women’s basketball games and other events. It’s slated to open in 2021.
It’s not a totally done deal, as the UT System Board of Regents yesterday voted to allow UT Austin to complete negotiations and enter into agreement with OVG and its partners for the new University of Texas arena. But it’s pretty close, and as noted, it’s certainly unique. While there are cases of college basketball programs playing out of professional venues (like N.C. State playing out of the privately managed PNC Arena), it’s certainly out of the ordinary for private investors to build and manage an on-campus facility. The University of Texas has been seeking a replacement for Frank Erwin Center for years now, and with other major athletic-facility upgrades in the works (such as the upcoming DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium expansion and renovation), the deal gives the university a major new facility without needing to raise money or go into debt. The price for UT: land the university already owns in the form of a current parking lot south of Mike A. Myers Stadium.
“UT’s historic agreement with this highly regarded company will result in a modern arena on campus for our students, alumni, supporters and the Austin community,” said UT Austin President Gregory L. Fenves in a press statement. “The arena will provide for an unforgettable UT basketball experience and represent the best of our university.”
Also unique: the participation of Austin-based Academy Award winner McConaughey. He’ll be the “Minister of Culture” at the venue, shaping what the investment group promises will be a “choice” fan experience. “It’s time to raise the bar,” said McConaughey, a 1993 UT Austin graduate. “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. It’s time for a choice experience for our fans. It’s time to be a preferred venue for headliners from across the globe. It’s time for quality, success, and victories for the Longhorns and for Austin. It’s time for the big show. It’s time. Hook ’em.”
Interestingly, the new arena will be significantly smaller than the Erwin Center, which seats 16,734 for basketball and almost 18,000 for concerts. Instead, the new arena will focus on intimacy, seating only 10,000 for basketball and 15,000 for concerts. College baseball venues are shrinking, and the new arena is part of that trend. The new arena will feature student seating surrounding the court and designed to hold a variety of university, campus, community and high school events. Additionally, the new arena is designed to expand to 15,000 seats and will provide a world-class venue for touring concerts and shows.
“This is a truly wonderful opportunity for The University of Texas, our basketball programs and the City of Austin,” said UT Vice President and Athletics Director Chris Del Conte in a press statement. “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. The 10,000-seat facility will bring our fans and students close to the action and provide an exciting and engaging game day experience. On top of that, it will have the capacity to expand to 15,000 when needed and be a big-time concert venue that draws premier performers to our great city.”
“There are very few brands as dominant and as well-known as The University of Texas and Longhorns, and there are very few cities that are growing at the speed of Austin. This is a rare opportunity to be partners with one of the greatest academic institutions in the world, UT, and to be building a world-class arena for one of the world’s great emerging markets, Austin. We are grateful to President Fenves and Vice President and Athletics Director Del Conte and look forward to creating one of the best arenas in all of the world, for Austin and The University of Texas,” said Tim Leiweke, chief executive officer of OVG, in a press statement.
As part of the deal, concert and event programming will be headed by C3 Presents and Live Nation. “C3’s headquarters are in Austin. We work here, raise our families here, and as a native Austinite, it is a dream opportunity to have this agreement with UT and work with world-class partners to bring this project to life. We are incredibly excited for the level of experiences and entertainment that this incomparable arena will bring to our great city,” said Charles Attal, partner, C3 Presents, in a press statement.
For OVG, the Austin arena deal is the latest in a line of high-profile arena projects that includes the private renovation of Seattle’s KeyArena for NHL hockey and participation in a new Belmont Park arena for the NHL’s New York Islanders.
Image courtesy Oak View Group.