University of Texas partners with OVG, Hollywood star for arena project

The University of Texas at Austin (UT) has entered into what it claims is a groundbreaking arena deal with a consortium led by entertainment and sports facilities company Oak View Group (OVG), with famous alumni Matthew McConaughey brought in as the ‘minister of culture’ for the project.

The UT has struck a 35-year agreement with the OVG group, which also includes Live Nation, C3 Presents and Hollywood star McConaughey. Under the deal, a world-class arena will be built on the Austin campus that will be home to Texas men’s and women’s basketball games, graduations, concerts and other events. Work is due to commence in the summer of 2019, with the area given an opening date for the 2021-22 basketball season.

The $338m (£266.7m/€295.6m) venue will be constructed on land fully owned by UT without using any university or public money. The arena will be located on a current parking lot south of Mike A. Myers Stadium, a venue for track and field, as well as soccer. It will replace the 41-year-old Frank C. Erwin Center, which will be demolished to accommodate future expansion of the Dell Medical School.

The new arena will have a 10,000-seat configuration for men’s and women’s Longhorn basketball games and feature student seating surrounding the court. Much like how the Erwin Center currently operates, the new venue will also host university, campus, community and high school events. Additionally, the new arena is designed to expand to 15,000 seats for touring concerts and shows.

UT vice-president and athletics director, Chris Del Conte, said: “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.”

C3 Presents and Live Nation have been engaged to bring first-class entertainment to the arena. Meanwhile, Austin-based Academy Award winner McConaughey, who graduated from UT in 1993, will act as the minister of culture at the venue, a role designed to ensure that Longhorn and Austin cultures are front and centre along with helping create a fan experience unlike any other.

Tim Leiweke, chief executive of OVG, said: “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.”

McConaughey added: “It’s time to raise the bar. 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.”

Yesterday’s (Thursday’s) announcement marked the second major stadium or arena development in Austin this week. On Wednesday, the City of Austin sealed a deal with Precourt Sports Ventures (PSV) that will lead to the development of a $225m stadium housing a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion franchise earmarked for launch in 2020 or 2021.