Just keep cheerin': Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey curating vibes at UT Moody Center
When someone asks lovers of live music or fans of Longhorn basketball if they had a great experience at the new Moody Center next year, Matthew McConaughey will certainly think, “It’d be a lot cooler if you did.”
The Academy Award-winning actor has partnered with Oak View Group, Live Nation Entertainment/C3 Presents, the University of Texas and Dell Technologies to breathe life into the 15,000-seat venue, expected to open in April 2022, and he has helped drive conversations on everything from fan experience to color scheme, with one driving principle in mind.
“How is this the first place a big band wants to play in the world, and the last place a visiting basketball team wants to play?” McConaughey said to a handful of reporters during a roundtable chat this month.
UT Moody Center gives Matthew McConaughey chance to expand role
McConaughey sees the partnership as a natural extension of his role as minister of culture at the University of Texas. He said that position’s focus should encompass youth, sports, tourism and music. The UT professor and regular presence on the burnt orange sidelines has already checked those first two boxes, and the Moody Center gives the bongo enthusiast and Austin cheerleader a chance to expand his role.
McConaughey said he and the team focused on how they could cultivate energy and engage music and basketball fans alike, with consideration given to sound design and lighting; the pitch of the seating that would allow fans to feel close to the action; and the location of the student section for games.
“Those are certain things that add value to a home court advantage,” McConaughey said.
Nothing can sap the spirit from a venue like compartmentalization, so McConaughey said the flow of the venue was crucial. That unrestricted current of energy will even be on display in the VIP level.
What to expect at the new UT Moody Center
Suites are often isolating comfort caverns that pull fans from the edge of the action — McConaughey remembers a Bruce Springsteen show in Los Angeles where the Boss peered into the darkness trying to connect with the hidden well-heeled. McConaughey wants the buzz vibrating as close to the main floor as possible.
The main viewing areas in the front of the VIP sections at the Moody Center have little separation from one another, with McConaughey likening them to lakeside decks, and, most importantly, the bars in those areas will be situated at the front of the suite decks.
People like to drink and socialize at shows and games, and McConaughey doesn’t want people stuffed by the bar in the back of a private suite.
“Why come to the arena then? Watch it at home,” McConaughey said of those who might choose to take in a show or game from a tucked away screen instead of watching the live event.
That dynamic can kill the mood in the building and create a gap that is both physical and psychological. The “Dazed and Confused” star wants everyone in on the same good time.
Quoting his good friend and GSD&M co-founder, Roy Spence, McConaughey said, “One of the great things about Austin is it’s a place where nobody’s too good and nobody’s good enough.”
“We are a communal city. As we grow in our affluence and popularity as a city, and more money comes here ... we still wanna have that feel that, ‘Hey, we’re all in this together here,’” McConaughey said.
UT Moody Center is 'uniquely Austin,' Matthew McConaughey says
Fan engagement at every level is the real difference maker in the experience for all, whether spectator or main attraction.
“That means more noise. That means more of a live experience, not only for the fan but for the player, for the band,” McConaughey said.
The engagement extends beyond fan to artist, fan to fan, and fan to team. McConaughey wants the Moody Center, which he calls “uniquely Austin,” to feel in relationship with the university itself.
Sight lines from inside the arena, located just steps from the southwest entrance to the Royal-Memorial Stadium, offer views of the downtown skyline and the UT Tower. And the Moody Center will feature a flowing plaza, highlighted by a barbecue operation, that spills out toward the Forty Acres and serve as a front porch for the state-of-the-art arena.
“If you engineer something right, it’s really the art of any situation,” McConaughey said. “This will be the most communal arena in the country.”
Alright, alright, alright.