The University has offered to extend the lease of the Lions Municipal Golf Course, which the UT System originally decided to let expire in the next two years.
The offer to re-lease the golf course known as Muny, which sits on the System’s land, comes from a letter President Gregory Fenves wrote last Tuesday to Mayor Steve Adler in which he told Adler to let him know by March 1 if the city of Austin is interested in renewing the lease.
“I would love to work with the University of Texas to find a way to preserve Muny,” Adler said, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
The UT System Board of Regents voted against the renewal of the golf course in 2011, leaving the lease to expire in 2019. According to the Austin American-Statesman, the regents decision in 2011 was because of the possibility of the golf course being transformed into a neighborhood with homes, shops and hotels. The new developments could help the University acquire $5.5 million a year versus the $414,720 the city of Austin pays annually to lease the course.
“… I write now to ask if the City has any desire to negotiate an extension or renewal of the Muny lease on terms closer to current market value past the initial term,” Fenves said in the letter. “If the answer is yes, I am prepared to work with you to negotiate a mutually agreeable lease renewal at closer to market value.”
Last year, the golf course was added to the National Register of Historic Places because the course was one of the first to be desegregated in the South. The desegregation of the course occurred in 1950 when two black youths went to the course and began playing golf. Although there were laws against this, such as the Jim Crow laws, the city officials let the youths play, which led to the course’s desegregation.
The historical recognition was a victory for Save Muny, a group of individuals who want to preserve the golf course.
“Preserving it as a golf course is important, preserving it as an open space and recreational area is important, preserving it for its desegregation history is important,” Save Muny co-chair Mary Arnold said.
Arnold said this decision by the University might have been influenced by the recent historic recognition of the course, and she is happy to see a discussion take place between Fenves and the city of Austin to preserve the golf course.
Arnold also said the neighborhood surrounding Muny hopes to save the course and nearly did so a few years earlier.
“The neighborhoods around the golf course did a neighborhood plan back in 2010, and during that planning process there was strong support for maintaining the golf course and the green space,” Arnold said. “The University of Texas was able to persuade the City Council and the city staff that the Brackenridge Tract (where the golf course is located) should not be included in our future land use map.”
The land on which the golf course sits was donated to the University by former Board of Regents member George W. Brackenridge in 1910 for educational purposes and encomposses around 345 acres of land known as the Brackenridge Tract. In 1924, 141 acres of the land were leased to the city of Austin below market rate, and in 1928, the golf course was constructed.