Last Friday, the University of Texas Board of Regents voted to allow the lease for land currently occupied by the Lions Municipal Golf Course to expire in May 2019. Currently, the City of Austin leases the land from the University of Texas for $414,000 per year, according to an article in the Austin American-Statesman. While appraisals have not been completed on the value of the land if used in a different manner, but one Regent estimated that lease payments could reach $5.5 million per year. It is this difference in amounts that has made the current lease arrangement less desirable.
An organization called Save Muny has been attempting to find a way to save the golf course ever since it’s possible closing was suggested by an advisory panel in 2007. That panel has recommended a combination of residential and commercial space that would generate higher lease revenues for the University of Texas system. Save Muny has been attempting to find a way to save the course but has so far been unable.
While it seems as though the current lease could be terminated at any time, the recommendation to simply let it expire in 2019 appears to indicate that the course will stay open for the short term. At this time, the regents have not indicated any intention of terminating the lease early.
The official statement from the University of Texas reads:
Austin, TX – The University of Texas System Board of Regents voted Friday to allow the lease with the City of Austin for Lions Municipal Golf Course to expire in May 2019.
The Board’s actions allow the lease to terminate following recent reviews of the uses of the 345-acre Brackenridge tract.
“As fiduciaries of the trust created by Colonel Brackenridge’s most generous gift for the purpose of advancing and promoting education for the students at The University of Texas at Austin, the Board of Regents is duty bound to honor the intent of the gift,” Regents’ Chairman Gene Powell said. “The Board has an obligation to be a good steward of the land all across Texas to which it is entrusted for the benefit of our students and the state. We also must be a responsible neighbor to others.
“It is essential our academic and health institutions always maximize use of their assets and financial resources to keep costs to students and their families as low as possible. The current tight economy simply puts more focus on these responsibilities,” Powell added.
The Board plans to continue talking with the city leadership on how best to use and redevelop the tract in the coming years to benefit the university.
The golf course is on the university-owned Brackenridge Tract in West Austin. The 500-acre parcel along Lady Bird Lake was donated in 1910 by Colonel George W. Brackenridge, a former UT System regent from San Antonio, for the benefit of The University of Texas at Austin. Since that time, some acreage was conveyed for streets and similar public purposes and for residential development. Today, the tract consists of approximately 346 acres of undeveloped and developed land that includes the municipal golf course, UT Austin student housing, a biological field laboratory for the campus, a youth sports complex and various commercial buildings and enterprises on property leased from the Board.
Since 1924, a portion of the tract – now 141 acres – has been leased for a golf course. The present lease for the Lions Municipal Golf Course was entered into in 1987 and amended in 1989 to extend its term to May 2019, with three five-year extensions that may be cancelled by either the City or Board.
In March 2008, the Board of Regents hired Cooper, Robertson & Partners to develop a minimum of two conceptual master plans for the potential redevelopment of land. The two conceptual master plans were presented to the Board in June 2009.
Planners have made recommendations to the University on how to re-purpose the 345-acre Brackenridge tract in West Austin. The planners unveiled two of their recommendations back in 2009 which included consolidating and expanding graduate school housing and creating two access ramps at Cesar Chavez Street and MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1).
A spokesperson with the university said that the Board has no immediate plans for the land.