Senate Bill 822, a measure from Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, passed with a 21-10 vote in the Senate on Tuesday.
The bill would transfer ownership of the land that Lions Municipal Golf course sits on from the University of Texas System to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The bill now heads to the House for deliberation.
Although the passage through the Senate does not ensure the embattled Tarrytown golf course – known as “Muny” — will be saved, it marks a huge victory in the fight to save the course.
The course was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the fall of 2016 because of its historical significance of being the first golf course in the South to desegregate. Senate Bill 822 has strict instructions to protect Muny’s place in history and the historical value that it holds.
“This is a priceless piece of Texas, even United States, history,” said Estes, via the Houston Chronicle. “This is a one-shot opportunity to save a piece of Texas history.”
Proponents of saving Lions — part of a movement called Save Muny – have been fighting to save the course from development since 1973. Save Muny has prevailed each time talks of development have come up in the past, but in recent years they have faced a much harsher reality with the UT System seemingly not open to renegotiating the lease that expires in May of 2019.
But in January, UT President Greg Fenves offered to renegotiate the lease on the course. He insisted the university get compensation closer to market value – around $6 million annually; a number that the city is unlikely to be able to afford.
One of the biggest supporters of saving the course is Ben Crenshaw, an Austin-native and World Golf Hall of Famer. Crenshaw proposed a restoration and renovation of the course in February, if the course were to be saved.
“The bottom line for me, I just can’t see this place being developed,” Crenshaw said. “I just think it’s too precious of an asset, and it just simply means too much to people.”
Sen. Estes’s bill has faced some opposition during this legislative session, most vocally from Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo. He does not feel the state is entitled to confiscating property from the university without compensation. Estes is confident the state has title to the asset.
It is not clear how much support the bill has in the House.
There is no concrete timetable for resolving this issue, but representatives with Save Muny are confident that it will be settled well in advance of the lease’s expiration in 2019 – regardless of the outcome of Senate Bill 822.