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Texas looking for private partner to develop new basketball arena

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The school believes it has a plan for how to finance the Erwin Center’s replacement.

erwin center Wescott Eberts

With the Erwin Center set for demolition in the near future to make way for the Dell Medical School, the Texas Longhorns are facing a dilemma — the need to construct a new basketball arena and practice facility that will also satisfy the local demand for an event center capable of hosting concerts.

President Greg Fenves and athletic director Chris Del Conte believe they have found a solution by utilizing what the schools calls a “groundbreaking” public-private partnership. On Friday, the school announced that it is soliciting interest from qualified developers to build and operate the new facilities. The goal is to build the arena with minimal financial investment from the university.

“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.”

Fenves and Del Conte are looking for a private entity with experience developing basketball arenas costing at least $350 to $450 million and the financial capability to do so with little investment from the university. The company must also design, develop, and construct the new arena.

“This process is a critical step in the planning and development of the new arena and for the future of Texas Basketball,” said Del Conte. “It’s going to be a tremendous facility that our student-athletes, coaches and fans can be extremely proud of, and one I know everyone is committed to making a great addition to all of the venues on our campus. We’re really excited about getting this process rolling, moving forward and designing an awesome arena.”

The Request for Qualifications and Proposal released on Friday also confirms that the new arena will be on campus — either south of Mike A. Meyers Stadium, which is currently a parking lot, or south of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, the current location of the Recreational Sports Complex and the Steve Hicks School of Social Work.

The Erwin Center replacement will be “smaller and more intimate” than the current arena, which seats 16, 734. Concourses are meant to “put the fan experience front and center.”

In a little more than a month, Fenves and Del Conte will have proposals to evaluate, but this is already an exciting start — they understand that Texas needs a better homecourt advantage, that the city of Austin needs a concert venue roughly the size of the Erwin Center, and have found a way to keep Del Conte from having to raise as much as $450 million for the new arena.