University in negotiations to purchase Players land

Liz Farmer

The University is in negotiations with Players Restaurant to purchase its land near the UT AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center.

The UT System Board of Regents approved the University to begin negotiations at the Regents meeting on Wednesday.

The University has a troubled history in its previous attempts to acquire the Players land on MLK Boulevard, said Eric Hirst, associate dean for business graduate programs.

The appraised value of about half of the land is $696,925, according to Travis County property information.

Official UT sources could not confirm future building plans for the land. However, Hirst said the plot is attractive to any school hoping to expand and said the business school is currently toying with ideas for a new building to house the MBA graduate program. He said current McCombs business school classrooms do not allow for teamwork, which he said is essential to the program.

“When we look at our current facilities, we’re not able to do what management does,” Hirst said. “That affects our ability to engage in teaching.”

University spokesman Gary Susswein declined to comment on specifics because he said it would undercut the University’s position to negotiate.

Hirst said the negotiations for Players’ land is interesting given how things fell apart in 2004. At that time, the University tried to acquire the plot through eminent domain, virtually sidestepping the owners to seize the land for public use, with plans to build a parking garage for the AT&T Conference Center.

He said the previous attempt turned into a political issue, but this time around the University is proceeding in a more respectful manner with the owners of Players.

“That’s very different than saying someone’s going to try to take your property and you don’t have any say in the matter,” Hirst said.

Hirst said the business school is also interested in renovating the McCombs building to better suit undergraduate needs, which would necessitate a new building to house students during renovations, regardless of where that new building may be.

Printed on Thursday, February 9, 2012 as: University in negotiations to purchase Players land