Sylvan Beach Park pavilion to get new operator, undergo repairs; supporters fear for historic building’s future

Sylvan Beach Park pavilion exterior
(Courtesy Friends of Sylvan Beach Park & Pavilion)

(Courtesy Friends of Sylvan Beach Park & Pavilion)

Image description
(Courtesy Friends of Sylvan Beach Park & Pavilion)
Image description
(Courtesy Friends of Sylvan Beach Park & Pavilion)
The contract between Harris County and the operator of Sylvan Beach Park’s historic pavilion has been terminated, which will lead to the cancellation of planned weddings and other celebrations. The move has pavilion supporters fearing the pavilion will be closed indefinitely.

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia and his office said this is not true and that the pavilion will remain open as the county looks for a new operator. The existing operator, Party and Reception Center, will run the pavilion for another six months, officials said.

The pavilion, located in La Porte, is a popular destination for Bay Area residents as well as other visitors, who use it for dances, weddings and other events. It is on the National Historic Registry and is a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark.

Harris County commissioners voted unanimously Nov. 12 to end the county’s contract with Party and Reception Center. The county selected the company in 2013 to operate the pavilion, which the county owns, said Ted Powell, president of Friends of Sylvan Beach Park & Pavilion.

Garcia said at the Nov. 12 meeting the contract expired in 2018 but that the operator was allowed to continue running the pavilion month-to-month because the previous administration did not want to terminate the contract just before the potential election of new commissioners. The contract is costing the county money, which effectively means taxpayers are subsidizing the operator's business, Garcia said.

“Because this contract has run its life, we should have been through this process a long time ago,” he said. “The county’s lost a significant amount of money.”

The county will put out a request for proposals for an operator to take over in six months. Party and Reception Center can apply to be the operator again. In the meantime, the county will address needed repairs at the pavilion, such as replacing a chiller, fixing the deck and making the building ADA-compliant, Garcia said.

“Those are things that do have to happen, but the instruction to my team is to do everything we can [to be] as nondisruptive to existing events that are planned [as possible],” he said. “That’s the commitment. Whether we can achieve that, I’m not sure yet, but that’s a commitment.”

Raj Shafaii, who operates the pavilion for Party and Reception Center, said during the meeting that this was not what he was told. Shafaii said county officials told him Nov. 4 his contract would be terminated, the pavilion would be shut down and the county would make the building ADA-compliant before deciding what to do with it.

“This place is not being shut down,” Garcia assured concerned residents at court.

“That’s what we’re going to hold him to,” Powell said.

Even if the county does not intend to shut down the pavilion, Powell is concerned the county will not find a new operator within six months. If one is not found before Party and Reception Center vacates the pavilion, it will be closed, Powell said. Regardless, any pavilion events, such as weddings and quinceaneras, scheduled more than six months out have to be canceled, he said.

“This is a county-made train wreck, basically,” Powell said. “It doesn’t smell right.”

Garcia did not return a request for comment before deadline.



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