AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Frank C. Erwin Jr. Special Events Center will soon close after 45 years. The center has served as the home court for the University of Texas at Austin Texas Longhorns men’s and women’s basketball.
Jimmy Earl and Liz Land remember when they first arrived at the Erwin Center. Earl went there just a couple of weeks before the center was set to open in November of 1977. Land landed at the center as an intern while at UT in the 80s.
“Once I interviewed for the position as a part-timer, I just fell in love,” she said. “That was it for me.”
Earl recalls wondering what the future had in store for him in this industry as he never imagined he could start a career at an events center.
“I had no idea that this was even an industry,” said Earl.
For the duo, working behind the scenes has been an adventure. From meeting some of the world’s top artists such as “Bon Jovi, Sting, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton… we’ve had Oprah Winfrey in the building to talk to Michael Bolton,” they said.
They have also met some world leaders along the way.
“You don’t ever think you’re going to meet a president,” said Earl. “President Clinton, you know, you don’t ever think you’re going to meet the Dalai Lama, but you do meet the Dalai Lama. You know, you meet people like Michelle Obama.”
“Meeting Michelle Obama was just a highlight,” added Land.
They even made some of their visitors honorary Longhorns.
“We gave Stevie Wonder some Longhorn cufflinks,” said Earl. Land recalled, “We gave Bon Jovi a Texas football jersey and he even wore it on stage, we gave Taylor Swift some boots, cowboy boots.”
“We gave Jay-Z a jersey,” added Earl.
From singing to competing, Earl and Land reminisce about the sporting events that have put Austin on the map.
“We hosted the Davis Cup, what maybe 10 years ago,” she said.
“We hosted the NCAA Regionals at one time,” said Earl.
It’s not just the athletic events that make up the culture at the Erwin Center, it’s also the Longhorns who throughout the years have called the center home.
“You consider somebody like Jody Conradt, who is a legend, and another kind and generous person and a great coach, and what she brings to the University of Texas and, and women’s athletics. She’s in the hall of fame,” he said. “And all of the coaches that we’ve had that have come through, you know, like, Tom Penders and Rick Barnes and Abe Lemons, you know, not very many people even remember that.”
“And Bob Weltlich,” Land chimed in.
Today, the pair said they wouldn’t trade their experience at an events center for the world.
“The building itself is just concrete and steel, but it’s the people that work there,” said Earl. “Without the people, it is just a building, and the Erwin Center was much more than that.”
Earl retired back in late 2020. That’s when Land took over. She plans to retire from UT in late April. The final tip-off at the Erwin Center for the UT men’s basketball team takes place Monday at 8 p.m. against Baylor.
Then, on Saturday, the UT women’s basketball team will play their final home game at the Erwin Center.
The Erwin Center’s replacement, The Moody Center, is expected to open in April. There’s no word yet on when the Erwin Center will be brought down or if the demolition will include an implosion. The site will make way for UT Dell Medical School expansion but details have been released on that at this time.