Baylor, City of Waco announce partnership on new basketball pavilion

Rendering of the new 245,000-square-foot facility. Photo courtesy of Baylor Proud

By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer

In December, Baylor University and the City of Waco announced an initial agreement to partner on the location of the university’s new basketball arena, the Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion.

The $185 million facility and future home of Baylor’s championship basketball teams will be located along the Brazos River, adjacent to Clifton Robinson Tower and across I-35 from McLane Stadium.

The pavilion is part of the first phase of the city’s plans to expand Waco’s Riverfront district. The first phase is expected to add more than $160 million of investments to build apartments and restaurants and add parking. The overall Riverfront development project could result in nearly $700 million worth of investment in the area.

The Foster Pavilion includes a 245,000-square-foot facility with seating for 7,000 fans and additional standing room for 500 fans, compared to the 10,200 seats available at the 150,000-square-foot Ferrell Center. While the new arena will have fewer seats, the smaller amount will ensure the pavilion is always packed for games and will allow for a louder environment.

The facility will also include a Development Center for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, including practice courts, film rooms, team lounges and academic spaces. Construction is scheduled to begin in June 2022. The pavilion is expected to open in January 2024, while the Development Center is expected to open in April 2024.

Mack Rhoades, Baylor vice president and director of intercollegiate activities, said the new pavilion is an elite facility due to the combination of the facility’s location on the river, size, classic field house design and technology, such as the two 2,000-square-foot video boards that are on either end of the court.

“Fans will be right on top of the action,” Rhoades said. “We believe it’s the perfect size for us and believe it provides us the opportunity to fill it to capacity every game, both men and women. From a capacity standpoint, there’s certainly facilities that we can compare it to, but in terms of setting, being able to place [the pavilion] right on the river, that’s something that really can’t be replicated.”

Rhoades said after the new pavilion is built, parts of the Ferrell Center that were occupied by the basketball teams will be renovated to accommodate Baylor’s volleyball team and acrobatics and tumbling team, giving both teams a permanent home.

Rhoades said the construction of the pavilion is an exciting opportunity for both Baylor and Waco due to it being at the core of development in downtown Waco.

“In terms of the new development for downtown, think about the basketball games and other events and then what’s currently being constructed: retail, housing, office space, new hotels, parking garages, redevelopment of the Riverfront walkway, farmers market, new restaurants,” Rhoades said. “So [the pavilion] serves as the core to all of that activation and growing downtown Waco and just making it a place of destination for the community of Waco and beyond Waco.”

Paul Cain, assistant city manager for the City of Waco, said via email the pavilion will host events such as concerts and comedy shows, in addition to hosting local UIL, TAPPS, TAAF and AAU sporting events and the McLennan Community College graduation. Under their current agreement, Baylor and the City of Waco have until March 1, 2022, to negotiate a final agreement for the use of the facility so that public events do not conflict with basketball games or other Baylor events.

Cain said the value of the relationship between Baylor and the City of Waco “cannot be overstated.”

“[Baylor’s] nationally ranked academic and athletic programs enhance Waco’s profile across the globe,” Cain said. “Baylor’s students bring the light of innovation and creativity to our city and its alumni, particularly the many who chose to stay in Waco post-graduation to raise families and conduct business — further develop the community’s economic and social sectors.”

“Through the city’s investment in economic development, public safety, infrastructure and neighborhood services, the city is doing its part to make Waco a better place to live, work, play and get an education,” Cain said. “By working together to our mutual benefit, the city and Baylor are creating a better Waco for all of its residents, visitors and students.”