The long-awaited, highly anticipated, and (given its conception and construction during the era of COVID delays) surprisingly not-belated Moody Center is finally open. In what often felt more like a congregational call to worship, Austin’s self-appointed Minister of Culture, Matthew McConaughey, gave a rousing speech at the ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, April 19, to kick off over a week of opening festivities at the new Austin arena.
Replacing the 45-year-old Frank C. Erwin Jr. Center at the University of Texas, the $375 million project will house both the University of Texas women’s and men’s basketball games and play host to world-class musical acts from around the globe. The multi-purpose, state-of-the-art venue is named in honor of a $130 million grant from the Moody Foundation and was a collaborative effort between Oak View Group, Live National Entertainment/C3 Presents, the University of Texas at Austin, and Matthew McConaughey.
Representatives from each group behind the project were present at the ceremony, highlighting their hopes that the arena will bring together the best of Austin’s live music culture and the university’s motto that “what starts here changes the world.”
“We always want to be mindful that everything we do is for our students,” said Kevin Eltife, Chairman of the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System, in his opening speech. “We have over 35,000 applicants each year who want to go to this great institution, and we can only take around 8,000. Our job, all of our jobs, is to make sure we provide them with the most affordable, accessible education possible, along with an incredible student experience. They clamor for our Longhorn tradition, our campus life, living in Austin, which is the live music capital of the world. This facility adds to that experience for our students."
From the impeccable acoustics of the 530,000-square-foot arena to fans’ intimate proximity to artists, the 15,000-seat venue will fully immerse guests in an Austin-authentic live music experience. Sweeping 360 degrees of glass walls and at-grade entrances are at every concourse in the building, drawing audience members in from the moment they arrive through the end of the show.
And while the arena is designed specifically for concerts, the ceremony reminded Austin that the venue will be equally integral to campus life at UT and to the city as a whole.
“The Moody Center is a novel public and private partnership,” said UT President Jay Hartzell. “It required a really complicated, inspiring collaboration between UT Athletics, the Moody foundation, C3 Presents and Live Nation, the Oak View Group, the City of Austin, campus leaders from many offices, and our construction team.”
UT’s Vice President and Athletic Director Chris Del Conte corroborated the unique nature of this partnership in his dedicating speech.
“This requires vision. This is the first time this kind of established relationship has ever been created in the history of the NCAA. I like to say that if the [Frank Erwin Center] is 'the drum,' the new building is the voice. It's the voice of the campus. It's the voice of Longhorn Nation. It's the voice of the Austin community. And we have to represent anybody and everybody within Austin, this community and Longhorn Nation.”
After additional speeches from Austin’s own C3 Presents and the coaches for both Longhorn basketball teams, the city’s patron saint, Matthew McConaughey, took the mic to bring the message home. Dressed in a burnt orange suit and donning a Stetson, the Minister of Culture shared his hopes from day one that this arena would be “engineered, designed, and aligned” to be the “first place that every big band, world-class act wants to play on the globe,” but “the last place [for] any basketball team visiting the University of Texas Longhorns.”
And by all accounts, it will be: Several of today's speeches touched on the on-budget, on time, and on-point design and delivery of the innovative new project. But now it's time for the fun part, says McConaughey, who wrapped up the ceremony with a mix between a gospel chant to “bless the Mood,” and a call to Austinites to come fill the arena with heart and soul and memories for years to come:
“We're going to fill the Mood with soul,” he said. “Yes, it is time to bless the Mood. It is the [Live Music Capital of the World’s] time to bless the Mood. It is Bevo’s time to bless the Mood. It is the University of Texas women's basketball team’s time to bless the Mood. It is the University of Texas men's basketball team’s time to bless the Mood…
"And to the media, the reporters, outlets — you who will share the stories we tell in there, it is your time to bless the Mood — yeah. It's your time. It's my time. It is our time to bless the Mood. We’ve got to fill this place with soul; we’ve got to fill this place with the best of ourselves every time we go in it, that's how we're going to bless the Mood.”
Visit moodycenteratx.com for more information and to find a full schedule of opening events.