Flashback Friday: First event at the Frank Erwin Center

First Event at the Frank Erwin Center

For this Flashback Friday, our associate director, Jimmy Earl, shares his memory of the first event at the building.

Nov. 29, 1977 (Texas men’s basketball vs. Oklahoma)

This particular date had loomed over me when I first arrived in Austin in August 1977. I had landed my first great job out of college and was on my way and full of excitement! Nov. 29, 1977 marked the first event ever at The University of Texas at Austin Special Events Center, now known as the Frank Erwin Center.

Thirty-six years ago, I was the events manager of the building and during those days Mr. Frank Erwin was still around and quite often came by to see how things were going with the pending opening. I remember thinking how big the building was initially. I had previously worked as the executive assistant at the Amarillo Civic Center, which seated only 6,800. So being in a new city opening a new venue, I was embarking on the adventure of a lifetime.

Original rendering from architects Wilson, Crain, Anderson Partnership

Original rendering from architects Wilson, Crain, Anderson Partnership

My first priority was to go through the building and try to imagine every possible scenario that could happen during a Texas home basketball game. What equipment would we need? How many ushers and supervisors would be needed? Where would most of the crowd enter into the facility? How would all the departments interact in order to pull this off? Would the sound work? Would all the building systems work? We tried to think of every possible event related scenario.

When the day finally came, we were all nervous with anticipation.

Since the building was still under construction and not quite finished, we required all of the building department supervisors to be present during the game and sit in a convenient location just in case they were needed. Also, some of the necessary equipment had not yet arrived, like walkie-talkies and turnstiles. We wanted to have a successful event and it was finally time to open the doors. All the guests were excited about the game and we all know how us Longhorns feel about playing Oklahoma. The tip off was at 7:30 p.m. and the atmosphere was charged with excitement and anticipation. The game was general admission in the mezzanine and reserved on the arena level. Once the mezzanine was at capacity, we still had hundreds of fans waiting to get in. The fans wanted to see Coach Abe Lemons and players like Johnny Moore, Jim Krevacs and Ron Baxter and they did not disappoint. In the end, the Longhorns won their inaugural basketball game at the Special Events Center 83-76 with over 16,000 fans watching.

We finally did it after many months of imagining what it would be like to host a basketball game at The University of Texas at Austin Special Events Center. We learned so much from that event and made all the necessary adjustments to improve for the future. Mostly every game was a sellout that season and the Longhorns went on the win the NIT Championship.

1977-78 UT Mens Basketball - Photo courtesy UT Athletics

The UT Mens Basketball team celebrate winning the NIT Championship

After hundreds of basketball games and countless other events in this building, the adventure continues.

-Jimmy Earl, CFE, Associate Director

Visit the Frank Erwin Center website to see who's coming, and subscribe to Be the First to Know to get a jump on upcoming pre-sales and ticket giveaways.

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