State-created Save Muny Historic District to take over concession responsibilities at historic golf course

Lions Municipal Golf Course clubhouse (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lions Municipal Golf Course clubhouse (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Lions Municipal Golf Course clubhouse (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

While negotiations over the fate of Austin’s historic Lions Municipal Golf Couse continue, the city has agreed to hand food and beverage concession responsibilities over to the state-created Save Muny Historic District.

The contract between Austin and The University of Texas board of regents—the golf course’s landlord—is currently on a month-to-month basis. The city has operated the 141-acre Tarrytown golf course as a public municipal course since 1937. Over the decades the golf course has represented a pressure point between the city and university, which has long leased the space to the city but in recent years has decided to turn the course into a revenue driver, ideally through a sale of the course. Although city officials want to hold onto the course because of its history, they have said the $109.5 million asking price is too high.

Negotiations over the course have been tense. Last year, the state Legislature stepped in to create the Save Muny Historic District, which encompasses almost 12,000 properties around the course. Led by former state Sen. Kirk Watson, the district was set up as a possible tool to help raise money to preserve the course. A private entity led by local golf legend Ben Crenshaw, the Save Muny Conservancy, is also attempting to raise enough money to purchase and preserve the course.

With the fate of the course shrouded under the uncertainty of a month-to-month lease, the city has been hesitant to bring in a long-term vendor for the food and beverage concessions, which is currently served by a temporary food truck behind the clubhouse. City Council on Sept. 17 agreed to have city staff negotiate a handover over of concessions responsibilities to the historic district, who will on its own try to find a vendor.

Mary Arnold, a board member of the historic district, said the group’s takeover of the concessions carries a few benefits. The money made through concessions will not go to the city but specifically toward long-deferred maintenance at the golf course. The district will be allowed to sell Save Muny merchandise through the vendor, something not previously allowed when the city was running concessions. In picking a vendor, Arnold also said the district will be able to act quickly and subvert the city process and requirements in picking the lowest responsible bidder.

Arnold said the district does not have any money. During a Sept. 16 meeting, board members volunteered their own money to pay for the insurance costs of selecting a vendor. The group is aiming to select a vendor in October.

According to city documents, the city will be able to make periodic site checks on the concessions operations once the handover is complete.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, USA Today and several other local outlets along the east coast.


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