Dense greenery may be a rarity in Central Texas but so is passing on the opportunity to generate additional millions in revenue.
The UT System Board of Regents voted unanimously Friday to allow the lease for city-operated Lions Municipal Golf Course to expire in May 2019, making way for plans to create new real estate developments that could earn considerable lease income for the University.
The decision further weakens the possibility of a future for the course. The 141-acre grounds is a part of the University-owned Brackenridge Tract, which includes UT student housing, a biological field laboratory for the campus, a youth sports complex and various commercial buildings leased from the Board.
The “Save Muny” campaign was created in 1972 after UT announced it was reclaiming the land to build student housing. In response to UT’s current interest in the land, a group of advocates re-formed in 2007 to discourage future development of the space.
The city currently pays $414,720 a year in rent to the UT System for the course, but UT officials have said building a mixed-use development on the land could bring in at least $5.5 million.
Despite the financial reasoning behind the regents’ decision, longtime players and Lions Municipal employees feel the Board is misjudging the profitability of developing the land.
“To let the course go for profit would be a mistake,” said Andy Segura, a Lions Municipal employee who has been playing at the course for the last two decades. “There are too many condos out there already, and the ones downtown aren’t even full.”
In a city focused on remaining environmentally friendly, some players are concerned about having to tear down what little green space there already is in Central Texas.
The Lions Municipal Golf Course first opened in 1934 and has since been played by several notable golfers, including Byron Nelson and Ben Crenshaw.
“Many prestigious golfers have played here — this shows little consideration of what this course was historically,” said Jesse Pena, president of the National Pan American Golf Association, who said the Board should make concessions, like rebuilding the course elsewhere.
But what supporters of Lions Municipal are most surprised by is the lack of consideration shown for community members who frequent use the course.
“What about the kids and adults that come here to play and for summer classes?” Segura said.