The Austin Chronicle

Faster Than Sound: Erwin Center Replacement, the Moody Center, Opens on UT Campus

The 15,000-capacity concert/basketball arena, plus more debuting venue news

By Rachel Rascoe, April 22, 2022, Music

Almost 45 years after the opening of the Frank Erwin Center, its replacement is ready across MLK.

Like its predecessor, the Moody Center offers a leading Austin locale for major concerts and events, as well as a home court for Longhorns basketball. Nestled between I-35 and the football stadium in a former UT parking lot, the stadium's flexible setup will allow for over 15,000 seats. (The Erwin lists its largest-ever attendance at 17,829 for a 1978 John Denver show.)

After a private event with Earth, Wind & Fire on Tuesday, the Moody dives into a busy opening week of John Mayer, Bon Jovi, and Justin Bieber. Further bookings like the Who, Leon Bridges, Iron Maiden, Roxy Music, and professional bull-riding stretch to December. Whereas the Erwin was initially designed to step up UT basketball attendance, the Moody was customized with concerts in front of mind.

Decades show in the design. To contrast with the retiring "Superdrum's" fortified exterior, the Moody's curvy lines let in natural light on both sides with glass encasing it. While architects behind Erwin helped build the Astrodome, the new Moody was envisioned by the local branch of the firm Gensler, veterans of the Q2 Stadium and the Domain NORTHSIDE. During a Monday media preview, Gensler principal David Lynch pointed out curved composite wood panels, which extend from the prominent overhanging roof to indoor hallways.

The project received a $130 million grant from the Moody Foundation, the same family behind all the other Moody building names in Austin. With construction launched in 2019, the multiuse venue boasted no cost to taxpayers or students with private funding provided through Oak View Group, Live Nation/C3 Presents, University of Texas, and Matthew McConaughey. Live Nation-owned Austin promoters C3 are also a partner in programming at Waterloo Park's 2021-opened Moody Amphitheater, and continue to expand their reach with a new Riverside project (more on that below).

While Live Nation has an equity stake in the arena, the Moody Center is open to other promoters. C3 founder Charles Attal confirmed as much on Monday. AEG Presents, the concert industry's second-largest promotions entity after Live Nation, is putting on Wednesday's Justin Bieber show. Meanwhile, the Moody Center's official grand opening next week is booked by the Austin-based Messina Touring Group. The two nights, April 29-30, feature George Strait, Willie Nelson & Family, and Randy Rogers Band.

Attal emphasized customizable capacity in the new arena, adding, "Flexibility is key in these rooms. You've got to be able to go from 4,000 to 16,000." Huge white panels attached to the roof can open and close to reveal the mezzanine level's 6,000 seats. On the ground level, planner Dan Vaillant of CAA Icon cited the Forum in Los Angeles as an inspiration for the arena's large sunken floor, which will allow risers to be pulled out for standing student sections during basketball games.

With a dug-in bowl shape, audiences actually walk down to the best seats after entering at street level, shortening the cheap seat's upward hike. Fans upstairs in the mezzanine access a huge outdoor balcony, with a panoramic view encompassing the state Capitol, UT Tower, football stadium, and track field. The balcony and front plaza will host food trucks and other activations during UT football games, as well as an outdoor stage featuring all-local acts.

"Lots of food and beverage, the big ceilings – you want people to feel like they're in a place they can hang out, and not just rush in and rush out," said Attal. "The nosebleed's not even nosebleed anymore."

Around the finished building, surrounding access roads are still under construction. Work blocks Robert Dedman Drive in both directions, as well as the ongoing closure of Red River Street – which was rerouted to allow for the arena. The Moody Center website actually recommends rideshare drop-offs on I-35 southbound frontage road in between MLK & 15th Street, on the east side of the Erwin Center. Attendees can purchase parking ahead of time at a few UT garages – ranging from $26 to $62.

The doomed Erwin lot will eventually make way for expansion of the UT Dell Medical School, with no destruction date set yet. Having already hosted its last games, the Erwin is still booked for UT's graduation ceremonies in late May.

New Parish Concept Opens in Former North Door

A rebranded, relocated Parish opened last week at 501 Brushy, former home of the North Door. The midsized venue represents the cooperative venture of two of Austin's leading independent concert promoters, Heard and Resound Presents. Said new concept drops "the" from the Parish's former Sixth Street identity – just like that scene in The Social Network.

After hosting comedy programming for the Moontower Just for Laughs festival, Parish's first concert landed Saturday with intense Japanese post-rock experimentalists Mono. Renovations placed a larger stage, previously in the corner, center on the venue's back west wall. Under a big disco ball, the quartet put the new venue to the test with steep sonic dynamics, a flashing light show, and heavy smoke.

All succeeded in the high-ceilinged former soundstage, with some guests standing against the railings in the renovated, albeit limited-visibility, upstairs balcony. Parish hasn't yet debuted a planned separate-but-connected bar, called My Oh My, in the building's smaller second room. Under Resound's calendar management, upcoming acts include Carl Craig, Lunar Vacation, and Buffalo Hunt.

The old Parish, purchased by Empire Control Room operators Heard in 2018, abruptly closed last October after property owner Matt Reppert changed the locks and boarded up windows. According to a lawsuit filed by venue owners seeking more than $1 million in damages, the landlord "hatched a plot to commandeer the business." According to Parish partners, the new location began to take shape within days of shutting down, and they were able to secure a 10-year lease on Brushy Street.

C3 and a Hotel Vegas Co-Owner Back Riverside Electronic Club

The long-vacant site of former male strip club La Bare will reopen as a new club backed by prominent names in Austin entertainment. As initially reported by Austin Business Journal, the building near the intersection of East Riverside and South Congress – which at one time housed a second iteration of the popular Sixth Street venue Steamboat – has now been leased by NoCo Hospitality, of Downtown bar Higher Ground. The group is run by Charles Ferraro (co-owner of Hotel Vegas, Volstead Lounge, and LoLo) and Paolo Soriano (co-owner of Rainey's Reina). The project at 110 E. Riverside Dr. also finds funding from Elevate Development Partners and C3 Presents, which will exclusively book the club under leadership of Bobby Clay. The talent booker told news site Axios the new venue will specialize in electronic music.

Copyright © 2024 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.