UT Austin's Frank Erwin Center demolition underway

This time next year, another Austin landmark will be gone. Demolition of UT’s "Frank Erwin Center" is underway downtown.

FOX 7 was given an exclusive look inside the project.

The unique shape of the Erwin Center provides its familiar nickname. "The Drum" on Wednesday morning was being hit hard by demolition crews. Up to 100 workers from more than a dozen contractors are part of this $25 million demo-project. 

The center's tear down, managed by SpawGlass, does not involve blowing it up.

"We feel that it's safer to do it the way that we're doing it and to have a little bit more control. So I'm a little sad about the non-implosion, but it's working out better for everybody around us and in our team to play around piece by piece," said Ryan Syring.

Inside, most of the arena seats are now gone. Above the concrete rim, crews removed ceiling tiles, wiring and metal frames. Most of the roof is gone, peeled off and sent down a wooden shaft to the floor below. 

The demolition of UT Austin's Frank Erwin Center is now underway. By October 2024, it will be gone.

The most dramatic reveal will happen outside, according to UT Campus Construction Director Dan Cook, when the concrete panels that wrap around the drum are taken off.

"They'll see a square, and it will basically be a large symmetrical square structure, you know, held up by a series of 12 trusses and 12 columns. And then once, there's going to be a controlled and very methodical collapse of that, it'll be like one day you saw it, the next day it's gone kind of thing," said Cook.

Most of the debris that’s piled up and scooped up will not be hauled off to a landfill. It's estimated more than 80% will be recycled.

"3,800 tons of steel will be recycled, and over 20,000 tons of concrete are part of this," said Cook.


The structure is expected to be gone by next summer and the entire site should be reduced to a vacant lot by October 2024. 

When the Erwin Center was built it cost about $35 million. Its replacement, the Moody Center, cost $375 million and was financed through a private partnership with the university. 

Since its opening in 1977, this big venue has hosted a lot of big names and big events. The Erwin Center has hosted concerts, prize fights and high school graduations. And it was a hard-top-big-top, with a specific access feature.

"This tunnel was originally designed to be able to accommodate elephants as a part of the circuses that would come into town," said Cook.

The site of the Erwin Center will become a new 10 to 12-story medical building, a new addition to Austin’s changing skyline. How that building will look has yet to be designed.