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Texas AD Steve Patterson: Taxpayers should help finance new arena

Posted September 29th, 2014

Texas athletic director Steve Patterson said the school is “probably six to eight years” away from building a new basketball arena to replace the Erwin Center.

UT’s new Dell Medical School will eventually need the land the Erwin Center is situated on. School officials have yet to determine where a new arena fits into the campus master plan, though.

During a speaking engagement Monday night sponsored by Texas Monthly, Patterson reiterated his belief the city of Austin should shoulder some construction costs. Patterson has previously told the American-Statesman a new arena could cost a $500 million or more.

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“The reality is that Austin has had a free arena for 3 1/2 decades at no investment whatsoever,” Patterson said. “You look at the growth projections five years out, to be a top 25 market in this country and not to have an invested a nickel in an arena is a heck of a position for the city of Austin to be in.

“So perhaps we ought to be looking at all the constituent groups and how they contribute or invest in a facility going forward,” Patterson added.

One other thing is clear: Patterson is not impressed with the current gameday atmosphere at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

“I’ll be quite frank, I’m not satisfied historically with where the gameday experience is,” Patterson said. “Our wifi is not where it should be. Our sound systems are not where it should be. The video systems that we have are good on some days and not so good at other things. But that’s going to be significant capital investments that we’re going to have to make.

“If we want to replace that Godzillatron,” Patterson said, “that’s some real money.”

Patterson said athletic officials estimate a new wifi system at Royal-Memorial Stadium would cost $7.5 million in equipment. It’d cost $1 million to put in a new wifi system for fans at the Erwin Center and $500,000 at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Still, Patterson said the athletic department will implement some suggestions made by Disney officials at upcoming games. The school has also hired 24 staff members from The Aspire Group to become a new outbound ticket-selling sales force.

“Hopefully you see a better product as we go forward this fall,” Patterson said.

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