The UT System Board of Regents recently voted to extend the deadline for deciding whether they will continue to lease the Lions Municipal Golf Course, or Muny, to the city of Austin, following almost one decade of dispute between the two parties.
The 141-acre Muny golf course was one of the first desegregated golf courses in the South and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the National Park Service website. Its lease to the city expires in May.
Originally, if the city or the UT System intended to cancel the lease, they had to notify the other by Nov. 26. The vote extended the notification deadline to Feb. 28, as each party continues to negotiate.
“I’m pleased that both the city of Austin and UT Board of Regents approved the extension,” said State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, in an email. “This year, I’ve convened multiple meetings of the lead negotiators to impress upon them the looming deadlines and need for urgency on both sides.”
City Council Member Alison Alter, representing District 10 and Muny, said city officials have met with UT officials on a daily basis as they search for middle ground.
“We’re looking at a range of options, including contributions from the recent bond, to looking at land swaps or taking care of infrastructure that UT cares about,” Alter said. “A whole range of things are on the table, and very little has been removed. We’re just trying to put all the puzzle pieces together.”
Alter said she hopes the city can preserve the space.
“I’m looking to use these negotiations to jump-start a new type of partnership with UT,” Alter said. “Historically, we have not developed a high level of collaboration and I’d like to see us collaborate on other issues that we’d have a better chance of tackling together.”
The debate between developing the course and preserving it began in 2009, when UT commissioned plans to build housing and other facilities on the course. As a response, the organization Save Muny formed in the same year and petitioned for the site to stay untouched.
“The Board of Regents supports UT-Austin’s leadership in continued discussions with City of Austin officials as they work to develop a potential plan to preserve the Municipal Golf Course that is mutually beneficial,” UT System spokesperson Karen Adler said in an email.
Black studies senior Joshua Ellis said one upside of developing the facility could be housing.
“It has its positives and negatives,” Ellis said. “There is need for growth at UT when it comes to housing, so if there’s any positive, maybe it could be for housing. But, I’d have to see if it would be affordable for students.”
However, Ellis said he hopes the city will decide to protect the course.
“Anything with connections to the black community always has some kind of affinity, because there aren’t many places you can still see the history of,” Ellis said. “For there to be areas that are still preserved, knowing they exist is special in a way. It would be very sad to hear about the course going away.”