When you Google Austin, the first thing you learn is that it’s a City in Texas. Austin is, in fact, the state capital of Texas. It’s located just east of Texas Hill Country and it’s known for music, food and breweries – barbecue in particular, music (yeah, I said it twice), and being weird. Austin a bright, quirky, and friendly city with a culture of its own. (Full disclosure, my sister moved there YEARS ago and immediately sent me a tie-dyed t-shirt with the slogan “Keep Austin Weird” emblazoned across the front. I’ve worn it to death.)
This city in Texas is also home to the University of Texas at Austin. Affectionately referred to as “The Forty Acres” or simply “The Forty,” which references the original parcel of land set aside for the university by the state in 1893, UT Austin is now one of the largest universities in the United States with some 50,000 students enrolled. This week marks the opening of the Moody Center, a top-of-the-line concert venue which is “Built for Music. Designed for Austin.”
The $338 million venue replaces the 43-year-old Frank Erwin Center. Designed specifically for concerts, Moody Center it is also home to the Texas Longhorns women’s and men’s basketball teams. The 15,000+ seat concert venue transforms into a 10,000-seat venue for the games. “It will be the best arena on any NCAA campus anywhere for basketball,” said Tim Leiweke, founder of Oak View Group.
The new arena is a one-of-a-kind private partnership between Oak View Group, Live Nation/C3 Presents, The University of Texas at Austin, and Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey is the Minister of Culture for the Moody Center, a position created to ensure that the cultures of UT Austin and the city of Austin are represented properly in terms of fan experience. Architect Gensler describes it like this: The arena creates an immersive experience from the moment fans arrive at the interactive plaza until they get to their seats. Engagement drives the design, blending indoor/outdoor spaces together into a cohesive, brand-forward experience.
At this point, I could talk about the food and beverage choices on the main and upper concourses and the photographs and murals by Austin artists, which are lovely. But I want to talk about the 96 panel SkyDeck™ located above the west end of the arena. The 8465 FT² tension grid is rectangular in shape and accessible catwalks on the north side and south sides of the grid. The grid is surrounded by and intersected by rigging steel, and there are 6” grid wells between the SkyDeck™ panels and said steel. The best way to explain a grid well is to show you. Check out the picture below of Bob Powers, head rigger at Chase Center in San Francisco.
Bob’s the one sitting on an I-beam while he talks to Bill Rengstl, the gent standing to his left. Bill was head rigger of the Ariana Grande tour at that time this photo was taken. Bob is able to place his feet on the bottom flange of the beam because of the 6” grid wells on either side of the beam. Now look to the left of Bill’s knees: you can see the beam wrapped in burlap in two places because they’re getting ready to set a couple of points on that beam. The SkyDeck™ with grid wells makes it possible for the riggers to walk up to the beam (not on the beam with bent ankles or hanging from the beam) and safely and securely prep their points.
Moody Center and Chase Center are set up in a similar manner in terms of grid placement and grid wells. I’m expecting the new SkyDeck™ to impact the new venue in a positive way. Moody Center plans to present over 150 events annually. The proven safety and efficiency of SkyDeck™ is going to make the many upcoming changeovers just that – safe and efficient.
On April 27, Justin Bieber’s Justice tour will be playing the Moody Center. Bieber’s head rigger is none other than our friend Bill Rengstl, mentioned and pictured above. He’s going to let us know how the load-in and load-out goes in the new arena. I, for one, can’t wait to hear how it goes.