Frank Erwin Center celebrates 35 years


by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and photojournalist DAVID GARDNER

Posted on February 1, 2013 at 7:42 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 1 at 8:12 PM

AUSTIN -- It's a familiar sight in Austin: the big round building many affectionately call 'the Drum.'

The Frank Erwin Center recently celebrated its 35th anniversary. After 35 years, the Drum is still going strong.

It opened on November 29th, 1977, and Jimmy Earl was there.

“We had these little skimmer hats that we used to identify the ushers. That's me right there passing them out,” Earl said.

Today Earl is the venue's associate director.

“I can recall the first time I walked in and actually looked around it looked really big to me,” he said.

Inside his office is 35 years worth of memorabilia from events that have come and gone.

“It's a lot of work and a lot of fun. But to see people come to those shows and events and enjoy themselves that's why we're here,” Earl said.

Pictures hanging throughout the venue showcase the talent that has come through the Erwin Center. It's a who's who of some of the biggest names in music, and the facility has played host to other diverse events as well.

“We've had shows like the Davis Cup, we've had presidential visits, we've had the Dalai Lama,” he said.

The 58 full time staff and hundreds of part-timers keep things running smoothly.

When it first opened back in 1977, the Erwin Center was the largest venue of its kind in Central Texas. It can hold up to 16,000 people.

Between 2001 and 2003, the venue underwent major renovations, including new suites, scoreboards, and indoor and outdoor electronic signs.

And while it faces competition from other venues in Central Texas, Earl said it still attracts a wide variety of popular tours.

“We benchmark, you know, we see what they're doing and I'm sure they benchmark us because we've been at it awhile,” Earl said. “We know our audience and that's something that I think we bring to the table. I think the future's bright.”

The Frank Erwin Center is owned by the University of Texas and was originally named the Special Events Center. It was renamed in 1980 to honor the late Frank Erwin, a UT board of regents member.

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