Q’s With Matthew McConaughey, Minister Of Culture At University Of Texas

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The Minister Has Arrived: University of Texas Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey and his wife, Camila Alves McConaughey, at the Dec. 3, 2019, groundbreaking ceremony for Moody Center in Austin, Texas. (Gary Miller / Getty Images) 

It may seem odd for an Oscar-winning actor to be the Minister of Culture on a university campus, but when that person is as passionate, knowledgeable and as massive a supporter of his adopted hometown as Matthew McConaughey is, it makes perfect sense. As a University of Texas alum, who can make the hook ‘em horns hand signal in his sleep and who chose to raise his family in the Lone Star State’s capital city, McConaughey understands both why the vociferous student section of UT’s Moody Center needs to surround the Longhorn’s basketball court as well as how the porches of Lake Austin helped influence the new world-class venue’s design. Pollstar caught up with McConaughey to learn more. 

Pollstar: Congrats on being named Minister of Culture for University of Texas. What does that mean and what have you been doing in that capacity?  

Matthew McConaughey: As MOC I’m here to protect and develop two cultural heritages: Austin, and the University of Texas. Art and winning. Austin’s cultivation and appreciation of live music is an art, and so is UT’s culture of winning. I want to align the values of the Moody Center’s experience with the values of the city of Austin and the University of Texas. Moody needs to look, feel, and taste like the best of Austin by providing a world class live act experience on one night – and provide a major home court advantage for the UT men’s and women’s basketball teams on the next night. From the communal flow, to the local retail, hospitality, messaging, and fan relation to the stage and court, I want the Moody Center to be the first place live acts want to play, and the last place visiting basketball teams want to play.

What do you think the addition of a new arena in Moody Center brings to the Austin music, sports and entertainment scene? 

A world class live music venue and a major HCA (home court advantage). Austin likes great live music. Austin likes to party. Austin like to win. Moody’s built for all three.

Can you discuss how your inspiration for the suites came, in part, from the porches of Austin’s lake homes?  

Charles Attal (co-founder of C3 Presents) and I were leaning against the rail at his boat house overlooking Lake Austin a few years ago and it hit me that we were on a quintessentially “Austin” front porch, having a particularly “Austin” experience – the informality, the relaxation, the transparency. It makes your Tuesday feel more like a Saturday, puts you in a good mood.

 Additionally, I thought it was important to place the bar in each porch suite on the court side of the suite rather than in the back where most suite bars are. 

Why? Because what happens when you get up to get a drink in traditional “bar in the back” suites? You turn your back to the action, retreat to the bar, order a drink, wait, start a conversation, and all the while you’re missing the action on the floor that you came to see. Plus, my favorite place to watch a game or a live event is standing at a bar.

I understand you came up with the idea of putting UT fans on all sides of the court.  

Proximity of a student section is a major component of any collegian home court advantage – I wanted UT’s student section to consume as much of the closest to the court lower section as possible. 

I also wanted it to be SRO (Standing Room Only), which engineers a more energetic, communal, and rowdy area to give the students the best chance to truly affect the outcome of our home games.

Additionally, we designed the pitch of the seating in the lower bowl to be as steep as we could possibly make it to create a more intimate relation between the players and the fans, and create a more intimidating atmosphere for the visiting team.

You’ve said that, “The great thing about Austin is it’s a place where nobody’s too good and everybody’s good enough; we are a communal city,” how does that manifest itself?

Austin is a first class GA (general admission) city. It’s part of our culture: we don’t run over people to get where we’re going, and we don’t hold people back to get where we’re going – we get there side by side. This is an essential value of Austin’s social circulation. The Moody Center is designed with that in mind – to be communal, to have a flow that is intuitive, easy, and engaging. It should be one of the most social arenas in the country. That’s how the best of Austin rolls.

What does it mean to you having George Strait and Willie Nelson playing Moody Center’s grand opening?  

Two classic icons. Both from Texas, one from Austin. A perfect parlay to open grand.