Erwin Center Tips Off Final Basketball Season
By Jake Herman
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — You only get one chance at your last first day.
For the Frank Erwin Center, that day arrived Nov. 9. After the 2021-22 season ends, the 45-year-old basketball and concert arena will be demolished and replaced by an expansion of the Dell Medical Center.
In front of a general admission-only crowd, both the women’s and men’s teams notched season-opening victories.
After a 2020 season marred with COVID-related capacity restrictions, fan interest in Texas’ basketball programs has spiked this year. The men’s team announced it surpassed the previous record of 9,000 season ticket sales. New head coach Chris Beard played a big role in drumming up interest for fans to pack The Drum in its final season.
“Simply stated, it was a great crowd. There was a buzz in our locker room before the game and at halftime. The players appreciate it, a great atmosphere,” Beard said.
Hall of fame Texas Women’s Basketball coach Jody Conradt remembers the first game ever played in the Erwin Center back in 1977 — in fact, she coached in it. At the time, an arena this large was unprecedented in women’s basketball.
“It was pretty groundbreaking in terms of women’s athletics at the time,” Conradt said.
“There was so much talk and excitement about the opening of the building, it just seemed massive and cutting-edge.”
While the seats weren’t initially full for the women’s games, that would change — in part due to the Longhorns’ on-court excellence. When the Erwin Center hosted the Women’s Final Four in 1986, the event sold out for the first time in its history.
“There were a lot of firsts, and the Frank Erwin Center and the university provided an opportunity for that. I think it had a ripple effect to inspire other women’s programs,” Conradt said.
After wrapping up her 900-win coaching career, Conradt now serves as a special assistant to the women’s athletic director. Fifteen years removed from the bench, she’s grown accustomed to her favorite burnt orange folding seat at The Erwin Center.
“It was an inspiration… to believe that women’s basketball could be something that spectators wanted to see and experience,” Conradt said.
Although she’s excited for the future of Texas Basketball ahead of the newly-constructed Moody Center opening in April, she hopes to spend this season honoring the history of the Erwin Center as a venue for both basketball and entertainment.
“You can see the history walking through the halls,” Conradt said.
“It’s more than just an athletic venue, it’s a place for the community and the city of Austin to gather.”