Longhorn Land

University of Texas reveals plans for Frank Erwin Center replacement

University of Texas reveals plans for Frank Erwin Center replacement

Frank Erwin Center exterior
The end of the Frank Erwin Center is near. Photo by LoneStarMike

After some speculation that the University of Texas might build its new basketball arena away from the Forty Acres, the school has selected an on-campus site for the project.

On April 7, the university said it had chosen land just south of Mike A. Myers Stadium — home to UT’s track-and-field and soccer programs — as the spot for its new basketball, concert, and event facility. Last year, UT identified the site, which sits between Red River Street and I-35, as the preferred location.

The university is demolishing the 40-year-old Frank Erwin Center, known as “The Drum,” to make way for expansion of the new Dell Medical School. In a news release, UT says it hasn’t figured out the exact footprint, scope, and cost of the new arena, which is expected to open as early as 2022 or as late as 2024.

UT President Greg Fenves says men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart and women’s basketball coach Karen Aston “want the next facility to be on campus, where it is easier for our student-athletes to travel between their dorms, classes and practice.”

“It also makes the games more accessible to our student fans,” Fenves adds. “By choosing a central location, we will make the experience of going to a game more intimate and exciting for all who participate.”

It’s unclear how many people the new arena will be able to seat, but the proposed capacity has been pegged at roughly 12,000 to 13,500. The Erwin Center can accommodate about 16,700 people.

While a price tag for the new basketball arena hasn’t been determined, the project could cost more than $200 million, if recent projects are an indication. In 2011, the University of Oregon completed Matthew Knight Arena at a cost of $227 million. Two years later, the University of Nebraska opened the $191 million Pinnacle Bank Arena.

In 2014, Steve Patterson, then the men’s athletic director at UT, estimated the price tag for an Erwin Center replacement could top $500 million, although some said that figure was inflated.

UT’s current men’s athletic director, Mike Perrin, says: “Our goal is to have an arena on our campus that can provide the platform for a great atmosphere and a positive fan experience for our men’s and women’s basketball games. While our vision is that the arena be basketball-centric, we will look to design it to allow for versatility in hosting other events.”

Although demolition of the Erwin Center is years away, it’s not too early to be a bit nostalgic about the drum-shaped landmark. Here are some interesting facts about The Drum:

  • Completed in 1977 at a cost of $34 million.
  • Renovated and expanded in 2013 at a cost of $55 million.
  • Hosted first event — men’s basketball game between UT and University of Oklahoma — on November 29, 1977.
  • Hosted first concert, featuring bandleader Lawrence Welk, on March 12, 1978. Concert was arena’s first sold-out event.
  • Attracted largest crowd (17,829) for May 1978 show starring musician John Denver.
  • Hosted first two-night concert, featuring Prince, on January 29 and 30, 1985.
  • Hosted major events such as iHeartRadio Country Festival, X-Factor tapings, American Idol auditions, memorial services for Darrell K. Royal and Ann Richards, ESPN GameDay Live, and George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential announcement.