University of Texas Opens Moody Center Sports and Entertainment Venue

The 530,000-sq.-ft. arena will house men’s and women’s basketball, host concerts

Austin, TX, has burgeoned with sports activity in the past year: Austin FC opened Q2 Stadium in July 2021, the University of Texas revamped Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium in August 2021, and, this past April, the institution added a multi-purpose venue to its sprawling 437-acre campus. Built with the help of the Moody Foundation’s $130 million grant, Moody Center will be the new home of the men’s and women’s basketball programs and will bring a new wave of entertainment to the 11th-largest U.S. city.

“It has become an integral part of half of our athletics complex,” says Drew Martin, executive senior associate athletics director, external affairs, University of Texas Athletics. “The Moody Center’s going to have a tremendous impact on all students at the University of Texas.”

The Early Stages: Overcoming COVID Restrictions, Supply-Chain Glitches

Like a fair number of large-scale projects scheduled to begin in the early months of 2020, the Moody Center originated as a pre-pandemic job. Breaking ground in December 2019, the university was looking forward to an uninterrupted timeline and minimal hiccups. After the arrival of COVID-19 in the U.S., however, construction and system integration were hampered by health restrictions and supply-chain issues.

Impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, construction on UT’s Moody Center made a lot of progress from April 28, 2021, (left) to July 26, 2021 (right).

“Building an arena during COVID-19 was pretty hard,” says Seth Bailey, VP, technology, Moody Center. “From labor to hardware, everything was placed on a compressed timeline. We also had to overcome design tweaks, adjustments, and temporary solutions from some of our manufacturers.”

The venue’s rack room during the systems-integration process

Many entities came together to put the venue together piece by piece. At the top, the University of Texas teamed with Oak View Group for overall direction, Live Nation Entertainment to provide high-profile musical acts, and celebrity/UT Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey. As time went by, other partners were brought in: Gensler to lead architecture, CAA/ICON for project management, AECOM Hunt for construction management, Idibri for AV design, Diversified for system integration, and Rectitude 369 for network infrastructure. Despite the delays, the university’s passion and commitment to the venue’s goal kept the project on track.

“You could feel their desire and will for this to be an exceptional facility for their basketball teams and fans,” says Bailey. “We’ve built a lot of synergy in order to get this done in the right way for everyone to enjoy.”

The staff at Moody Center and the University of Texas weren’t alone in creating chemistry. A large number of venues popped up across the country in 2021. Notably, two hockey venues — Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, UBS Arena in Elmont, NY — benefited two franchises in the National Hockey League. The common denominator between those projects and development of Moody Center is Oak View Group and Diversified.

“We had the benefit of having Oak View Group as the foundation for all of these projects,” says Tony Gaston, senior account executive, sports and live events, Diversified. “Having straightforward communication with all of the key partners [helped us] provide a superior fan experience for more than 150 annual events.”

At the Center of Operations: Inside the Production Technology

Moody Center offers Martin and company amenities that weren’t available in the previous home of men’s and women’s basketball. Opened in November 1977, the Frank C. Erwin Jr. Center was a top-of-the-line facility on the collegiate circuit. Debuting some of the new technologies then on the market, the Longhorns provided a high-quality atmosphere for students and fans alike. Over time, of course, the building became antiquated.

“[Housing] men’s and women’s basketball as well as [being] a concert venue, it was the crown jewel for the university and the live-music capital of the world,” Martin says. “As buildings age, [the Frank C. Erwin Jr. Center] had seen its heyday, and it was time to have a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility.”

The push toward modernity has produced a 530,000-sq.-ft. arena less than a mile from the Texas State Capitol. The $375 million building is made with 50,000 tons of concrete, 2,654 tons of structural steel, and 25% recycled material. It comprises more than 15,000 seats, 2,000 club seats, 57 loge boxes, 24 porch suites that extend 10 ft. into the venue, 20 traditional suites at midcourt, three premium clubs, and a super-VIP club.

Moody Center’s sound system includes products from JBL, Crown iTech, and BSS.

From a style perspective, Moody Center has tapped the fanbase of the University of Texas Athletics and the creativity of the city. Each seat is embroidered with a Longhorn silhouette in burnt orange; in the main atrium, a massive Longhorn silhouette will be suspended from the ceiling. Throughout the venue are multiple murals painted by local artists.

From a technological standpoint, the in-venue control room houses top-tier equipment: a Ross Ultrix router and graphics, Grass Valley switcher, EVS replay, RTS intercom, KVM from G&D KVM, and BirdDog PTZ cameras. Outside of the control room, Gaston and his team tapped other surefire technologies to ensure a pleasurable experience: Clark Wire & Cable and Middle Atlantic for broadcast cabling, Shure and Extron for AV needs, VITEC’s EZ-TV for IPTV, Extreme Network’s Wi-Fi 6, and Verizon’s cellular DAS network for high-speed connectivity. On the sound side, the Moody Center production team is using JBL’s VTX A8 line arrays with VTX S28 subwoofers in cardioid configuration, Crown iTech 4X3500HD amplifiers, and BSS BLU-806 DSP processors. Above and throughout the venue, Daktronics has installed numerous LED displays.

Infrastructure Integration: Bevo Video Productions Takes on the New Venue

In partnership with Earl Miller Productions, Bevo Video Productions (BVP), the athletics department’s in-venue production team, adds another facility to its list of responsibilities. After last year’s expansion of Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium (DKR), BVP has access to two separate control rooms on the west side of the football-specific venue. The pair of control rooms provide the heartbeat of in-venue productions for all on-campus sports events and can be used as a backup for the control room in Moody Center and vice versa.

A bevy of dignitaries officially opened the venue on April 18: (from left) Moody Center VP, Oak View Group/Assistant GM Casey Sparks; Oak View Group President, Business Development, Francesca Bodie; The Moody Endowment Board Member/Moody Foundation Ross Moody; Men’s Basketball Head Coach Chris Beard; UT Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey; Live Nation Entertainment/C3 Presents’ Charles Attal; Oak View Group CEO Tim Lieweke; University of Texas President Jay Hartzell; Women’s Basketball Head Coach Vic Schaefer; The University of Texas System Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Eltife; Oak View Group SVP/Moody Center GM Jeff Nickler; and University of Texas Athletics Director Chris Del Conte.

“If we have a failure in both of our other control rooms, we could use the Moody Center control room to operate DKR,” Martin explains. “In total, we have three control rooms redundantly fibered to all of our facilities in order to produce an in-venue show.”

Within Moody Center, Diversified, and University of Texas Athletics are numerous individuals who pushed the project over the finish line. At Moody Center, Bailey was assisted by Senior IT Manager Heath Adams and Senior Production Manager Chris Walker. At Diversified, Gaston was joined by VP, Sports and Live Events, Chris Sullivan; Project Manager Erik Carlson; Site Supervisor Rick Koralewski; Video Production Site Supervisor Robert Kennedy; Project Engineer Mike Janes; Field Engineer Scott Durham; Stuart Reynolds on control-room design; Justin Guzman on broadcast-cabling design; Jeff Dykhouse on sound design; Vince Heine on AV design; Sam Wade on IPTV design; and Kurt Miller on video-production design. At the university, Martin cites Associate Athletic Director, Creative Development, Caten Hyde; Director, Creative Video, Jeff Hanel; and Dean of the Moody College of Communication Jay M. Bernhardt.

Center for Entertainment: Moody Center Opens a New Chapter in Austin

Less than two months old, Moody Center has already hosted boldface names from the music industry: John Mayer on April 20, Jon Bon Jovi on April 23, George Strait on April 29, The Who on May 3, Dave Matthews Band on May 11, and The Eagles on May 19 and 20. Basketball fans will have to wait until the fall, when the two programs play their first home games.

Moody Center is a new addition to the 437-acre University of Texas campus in Austin.

Although the past two years were difficult for both the live-events and live-music industries, the tide is beginning to turn in a positive direction. With more venues returning to full capacity and the calendar of events rapidly filling with various forms of entertainment, the opening of Moody Center is coming at the right time.

“We’ve taken a lot of pride in being able to get through [the pandemic],” says Bailey. “I think we’ll continue to make Austin and the university proud. We’re receiving a lot of great reviews, and I think, down the road, we’re going to feel like another staple in the booming city of Austin.”

The University of Texas has a rich 138-year history and will continue to add memories and moments. Moody Center will be a major part of that.

“[Moody Center] can be a massive recruiting draw for both of our basketball programs as well as a massive draw for our admissions department,” says Martin. “For our students at the Moody College of Communications and our Bevo Video Productions initiative, it’s going to provide an incredible opportunity for them to learn and grow.”

Moody Center’s busy schedule of events this summer will be headlined by sports events like UFC Fight Night on June 18 and the PBR Team Series Aug. 26-28, concerts by Andrea Bocelli on June 22 and Kendrick Lamar on July 21, and comedy acts Dude Perfect on July 30 and Kevin Hart on Aug. 7.

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