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Baylor, city will move forward on new downtown Waco arena

Baylor University and the city will move forward on a new downtown Waco arena, with the Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion located on a high-visibility site in the city’s growing Riverfront district.

The new $185-million home for Baylor’s men’s and women’s basketball teams will be located along the Brazos River on the west side of Interstate-35 adjacent to the University’s Clifton Robinson Tower, which will remain. The new 7,000-seat arena would open in January 2024 and anchor an expected $700 million in downtown riverfront redevelopment in coming years along the riverfront on University Parks Drive, from I-35 to Franklin Avenue.

The approvals for the new downtown Waco arena came this week, with the Baylor Board of Regents on Monday unanimously approving the final project budget of $185 million, and the Waco City Council voting Tuesday night to approve $65 million for the multipurpose basketball facility. The deal is still not totally final: Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the University and the City will have until March 1, 2022, to negotiate and execute a facility use agreement providing 90 calendar days to the City for concerts, performances and other public events in a manner that do not conflict with basketball operations or University priorities.

“The City of Waco has been an invaluable partner of Baylor University for well over a century, and we are excited to move forward together on the spectacular riverfront location of the Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion,” said Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone via press release. “This announcement is a first step, but it is a significant one. The Foster Pavilion will be home for our championship men’s and women’s basketball programs in a highly visible area of remarkable growth and development along the Brazos River, I-35 and University Parks Drive. We are honored to be part of the exciting developments in the city Baylor calls home.”

“At full build out, this project will be the largest economic development project in Waco’s history and will undoubtedly transform the face of Downtown Waco,” said Waco Mayor Dillon Meek via press release. “It embodies what today’s Waco is all about: collaborative spirit, big dreams and an authentic commitment to ambitious action. There is no city in Texas ripe with more opportunity–from our local entrepreneurs, artists and small businesses to corporations like Space X and Amazon–Waco’s economy and culture is on the move. This project exemplifies that Baylor University’s partnership with Waco is as robust and collaborative as ever before, and I am privileged to walk alongside such upstanding leaders.”

According to a joint press release, the project scope of the Foster Pavilion will include:

  • A 245,000-square-foot facility
  • Seating for 7,000 fans, with additional standing-room-only areas for approximately 500 spectators
  • Two separate premium club spaces at a combined 8,500 square feet
  • Two 2,000-square-foot video end boards
  • Visiting locker rooms with the flexibility to accommodate two to four teams
  • Development Center for Baylor’s championship women’s and men’s basketball teams, including:
    • Private entrance and elevator, separate practice courts, dedicated locker rooms and team lounges
    • Office facilities for each coach and administration
    • Shared sports performance-related spaces, including strength and conditioning, athletic training/treatment, hydrotherapy, nutrition and more
  • Enhancements/upfits for the arena to support additional events, such as concerts, performances and public events, including stage rigging, full catering kitchen and cooking capability, additional dressing rooms for performers and related offices.

The city and Baylor expects the Pavilion phase of the project will result in the addition of more than $160 million in private investment to create new apartment units, riverfront restaurants and at least 600 new parking spaces in addition to the more than 400 already under construction in the Riverfront area. As part of the overall development, additional phases and real estate will be developed in the area in a manner that could result in more than $700 million in total investment.

Renderings courtesy Baylor University.

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