AUSTIN (KXAN) — After more than four decades as the home of Texas basketball, the Frank Erwin Center is being replaced by the new Moody Center. On Monday, KXAN and a select Longhorns player got a look inside the new facility.
“[It] looks awesome,” said Texas men’s basketball player Brock Cunningham. “It gave me goosebumps. I’m excited to fill it up. Just kind of snuck in here… I’m glad I did.”
“It commands the best team that you can put on the floor,” said Texas Women’s Basketball Head Coach Vic Schaefer. “That’s my job. We’ll embrace that and live it every day for all of us.”
Tuesday was the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Moody Center. Both basketball head coaches were joined by a number of other key figures on the project, including the University of Texas’ Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey.
“It’s still only a building,” said McConaughey. “It’s not a home yet. Because you got to fill a place with soul if you are going to make it a home. And that’s why now comes to fun part.”
While the arena can seat around 15,000, basketball games will only allow around 10,000 as the upper section will be closed off by panels. Those panels, which rotate up to allow seating in the upper bowl, are acoustic and are meant to bounce sound back to the court.
“That’s the whole point is to keep it that tight, intimate and really loud environment in here,” Texas Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director Drew Martin said. “And to create the demand to come to Longhorns men’s and women’s basketball games.”
Moody will seat about 6,500 less fans than the Erwin Center but that is part of the creator’s entire vision of enhancing the fan experience.
“I think from the minute you walk into the building, it’s going to be a fan-forward experience,” said Moody Center General Manager Jeff Nickler. “From the wonderful Texas team shop where you can buy merch on site to walking in to these incredible premium spaces and bars…The fan experience is going to be unlike anything this market has ever seen.”
When asked if this new arena will help with recruiting, both basketball coaches agreed it will be something they sell to possible Longhorns.
“I don’t think the best players in the world make decisions based on one factor,” said Chris Beard. “But are facilities important? Absolutely. So I think it shows the commitment of a university to the basketball program.”
The new Moody Center’s location is right next to Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. That accessibility paired with the different student section is meant to improve the game-day experience as well.
“We needed to make sure students were in the lower bowl,” said Texas Athletic Director Chris Del Conte. “So that was constantly a theme that I took away from talking to coaches.”
“We’re bringing the students right down onto the court,” added Nickler. “Three sides of the court will be filled with these boisterous students on their feet jumping up and down. The home court advantage from the Longhorns is going to be something we’ve never seen here.”