Editor's note: This story incorrectly named Mellisa Morrow as a representative of the park commission. It has been changed to show Morrow is executive director of the West Austin Youth Association.
After more than a year of planning, Rollingwood officials approved a lease agreement for the operation and maintenance of the city's athletic fields that includes five baseball fields and a field house.
The agreement between the city and Western Hills Little League passed during a June 17 virtual council meeting by a 4-1 vote, with Council Member Sara Hutson voting in opposition.
Under the terms of the lease, Western Hills Little League may utilize the city owned, 8.93-acre municipal park known locally as Hatley Park. The agreement was signed with a ten-year term that provides the league with priority access to the park’s fields.
Within the first 12 months of the term, the league has committed to spending at least $30,000 in improvements, which will bring Hately Park to better conditions. The league will also pay an annual rent of $33,000, per the terms of the agreement.
A timeline for future improvements will be completed and provided to the city within 30 days of the effective date of the agreement.
On top of the capital improvements, the league will also be in charge of the field’s general maintenance. Rollingwood has agreed to maintain only the mowing and irrigation needs.
“This is a better deal for the city than what the city had in their past leases,” Council Member Wendi Hundley said.
Upon discussion, the city provided the league with a 10-year lease option, according to Hundley, who said in return the league was willing to contribute funds for improvements.
However, Melissa Morrow, executive director of the West Austin Youth Association, said the organization preferred a shorter leasing term, as youth athletic boards tend to turn over within five years. Morrow also expressed concern related to any necessary improvements in the future.
“I love the idea of them putting $30,000 worth of improvements; it could definitely use it,” Morrow said. “But if you spend your whole wad right now at the very beginning ... for the next two years, you don’t have any money or expectation of capital improvements beyond that.”
The agreement has also attracted public interest. Several members of the community have spoken during prior public hearings on the subject.
Resident Phil McDuffy said he was unaware the city was nearing a final decision and expressed concern regarding certain language within the lease.
“I think we’re making a lot of changes on the fly here,” McDuffy said. “Particularly with the language that says ‘exclusive rights.’”
McDuffy said he was concerned providing the league with exclusive rights to the field would prevent the community from enjoying the amenities.
Following a lengthy discussion, council voted to amend that language, effectively striking the word “exclusive” and changing it to "first right of use.”