Baylor University and the City of Waco in Texas have announced an initial agreement to construct a new, multi-purpose arena.

Located in the city’s Riverfront district, the 245,000sq ft ‘Foster Pavilion’ will cost approximately $185m (£139m/€164m) to build and, when complete, will serve as the new home of the University’s men’s and women’s basketball teams.

The facility will have seating for 7,000 fans, with additional standing-room-only areas for approximately 500 spectators, as well as two separate premium club spaces.

Other amenities will include two 2,000sq ft video end boards, visiting locker rooms with the space to accommodate two to four teams, a development centre for Baylor’s championship women’s and men’s basketball teams, as well as facilities to support additional events such as stage rigging, a full catering kitchen and office space.

Baylor’s Board of Regents unanimously approved the final project budget of $185m this week, as well as the scope and site selection for the venue, while Waco City Council voted yesterday (Tuesday) to approve $65m in funding for the facility. 

A Memorandum of Understanding between the University and the City states that the two parties will have until March 1, 2022 to negotiate and execute a final agreement. This will include providing 90 calendar days to the city for concerts, performances and other public events, in a manner that does not conflict with basketball operations or University priorities.

Construction on the Foster Pavilion is expected to begin in June 2022, with an early opening of the facility provisionally set for January 2024, followed by the development centre in April of the same year.  

“This announcement is a first step, but it is a significant one,” Baylor president Linda Livingstone said. “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.”

The Pavilion is envisioned to book-end the City of Waco Riverfront Development, which is currently in its first phase of construction. The Pavilion phase of the project will result in the addition of more than $160m 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 $700m in total investment.

Waco Mayor Dillon Meek said: “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. 

“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.”

Image: Baylor University