The University of Texas has informed the city of Austin, Texas that it is willing to explore extending the lease for Lions Municipal Golf Course, one of the first to be integrated in the South. But extending the arrangement past 2019 could become cost-prohibitive for the city if the university seeks to reap full market value, some fear.
After vowing not to renew the lease at Lions Municipal Golf Course, one of the most historic sites in Austin, Texas, officials at the University of Texas (UT) have apparently changed their mind, reported KVUE, Austin’s ABC television station.
UT President Gregory Fenves sent a letter to Austin Mayor Steve Adler letting him know the university was open to renewing a lease at Lions Municipal, known locally as the “Muny,” KVUE reported.
Lions Municipal was built in 1924 and made history when the course desegregated in the early 1950s, KVUE reported, in what is considered the first racial integration of a public golf course in the southern U. S.
The course is owned by the University of Texas, but in 2011 UT System regents voted against renewing the lease to the City of Austin when it expires in 2019, KVUE reported.
“The lease started out at $200,000 in 1989 and went up 20 percent every five years,” Mary Arnold, with the Save Muny organization, told KVUE.
Currently, the city pays UT around $500,000 a year for the Muny lease, KVUE reported.
In the letter to Mayor Adler, President Fenves said the university is now open to discussing extending the lease past 2019, but at a higher price. “I am prepared to work with you to negotiate a mutually agreeable lease renewal at closer to market value” the letter to Adler reads. Fenves went on to write that he hoped to begin discussions with Mayor Adler about renewing the lease beginning this March.
In 2011, the land occupied by Lions Municipal was estimated to be worth more than $5 million a year, KVUE reported.
While Arnold of the Save Muny group said it’s unlikely the city will be able to pay full market value after 2019, she also pointed out that there are other changes that could be made to help make up the cost.
“The lease money on the golf course right now is paid from the city’s golf fund and comes from the golfer’s green fees,” she told KVUE. If the University of Texas decides to instead sell or lease some of the other property along the Brackenridge Tract, she noted, it could bring in additional income that could help to keep the lease charges down.
Save Muny members are happy the university is at least willing to talk about extending the lease, KVUE reported, but remain concerned about the price that UT could now seek to command.