The public-private partnership envisioned by athletics director Chris Del Conte to secure a new basketball arena to replace the Erwin Center is now close to completion, with no cost to the taxpayers of Austin or the school.
As reported by Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman, the UT System Board of Regents is set to meet on Thursday to discuss a $300 million on-campus basketball facility, which will occupy 6.64 acres of land located south of Mike A. Myers Stadium between Red River Street and Robert Dedman Drive.
The planned location is currently a parking lot adjacent to Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
According to the Statesman’s report, the new stadium could seat as many as 17,000, though the upper deck would be closed off during basketball games to seat approximately 10,000.
The Frank Erwin Center, which will be demolished to make room for the Dell Medical School, seats 16,734, but the University of Texas is aiming for The Drum’s replacement to be “smaller and more intimate.”
As detailed in the Statesman’s report, Texas has reached a financial agreement with Oak View Group, which has managed a multitude of arenas around the nation, including Madison Square Garden, TD Garden, the AT&T Center, the American Airlines Center, and the soon-to-come, state-of-the-art Chase Center.
The updated facility, however, will reportedly be built without practice facilities for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Construction is reportedly expected to begin as soon as next summer and should be open in time for the 2021-22 season.
Paying for the arena had long been an issue for the school, as former athletics director Steve Patterson alienated city officials by calling for public contributions. Securing $350 million from boosters or incurring more long-term debt weren’t exactly appealing options, either.
So Del Conte and president Greg Fenves settled on what they called a “groundbreaking” idea announced in February — to allow a private company to keep revenues from the arena in exchange for building and operating it.
“We have a unique opportunity to develop a world-class arena and training center for the men’s and women’s basketball teams that will help us recruit and support elite student-athletes, improve the fan experience and host games just a short walk away for our student fans,” Fenves said in a statement. “Just as important, we are looking to do this at little cost to the university and no financial cost to the community.”
The plan, reportedly, is to allow Oak View Group to keep revenue for 10 years to recoup the costs of construction and management, at which point the school will then begin receiving a portion of that revenue.
And so the Longhorns are on the verge of executing a plan that would provide an events center for the city and a new venue for the basketball program with zero capital outlay by any of the public stakeholders in this venture.
“This is an innovative deal that will be good for the city and the university,” Fenves told the Statesman. “UT is a strategic partner with our community, and I’m looking forward to discussing the details, subject to the regents’ approval, later this week.”