The University of Texas at San Antonio and the Sunken Garden Theater saw their proposed bond project amounts sliced in half Tuesday by a citizens committee overseeing the parks bond program.
After three hours of discussion, the committee finalized funding recommendations for 85 parks and recreation projects to the tune of $274 million. The entire 2022 bond package is $1.2 billion and will be split into six different bond propositions on the May ballot.
City staff originally recommended that $10 million of the parks bond proposition be dedicated to an athletic facility at UTSA and another $10 million to renovate the Sunken Garden Theater. Committee members voted to recommend $5 million for each project instead.
The committee recommended bond funding for 19 projects that city staff did not include in its original list, including $1.5 million for pickleball projects and $3.25 million for BMX and mountain biking opportunities around the city. The panel also recommended putting $6 million toward upgrades at the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center.
District 6 committee member Richard Delgado put the UTSA project reduction on the table at the panel’s Tuesday meeting. The project in question is a proposed practice facility for women’s and men’s basketball and women’s volleyball at UTSA’s main campus.
“They have the funding to raise that capital to fund that project,” he said “And this, to me, shouldn’t even be here in parks because it’s a facility and is not open for everyone.”
Some of his colleagues protested, pointing out that UTSA planned to focus on women’s sports with its bond proposal and could connect with people across the city who might not have considered attending college.
“I had two conversations with [vice president for intercollegiate athletics] Lisa Campos,” said Elena Guajardo, District 7 committee member and former San Antonio councilwoman. “And she told me about her great dream. This is not [just] a building. … It’s the potential, too, outside the building. She wants to actively, intentionally reach out to our disadvantaged, to our low-income young women, using sports.”
A slim majority of the panel voted to reduce UTSA’s bond funding. Committee members gave much more support to cutting the Sunken Garden Theater’s bond funding, citing feedback from people concerned about the noise levels; only three voted to restore funding back to $10 million.
“Would you want that in your neighborhood? If you wouldn’t want it in your neighborhood, we shouldn’t put it on other people,” District 8 committee member Chuck Saxer said.
The recommended funding for the linear greenway shrank by nearly $3.5 million. City staff previously recommended putting $110 million in the 2022 bond cycle, which left $104 million to help build out the city’s trail system. Unlike the streets bond committee on Monday, committee members agreed to reduce the public art commitment in the parks bond from 1.5% to 1%, dedicating $2.7 million to public art instead of $4.1 million.
City Council will hear each bond committee’s recommendations in January and vote on the final list of projects in February.
Find the full list of parks bond funding recommendations here.
This story has been updated to correctly reflect that the streets bond committee voted to keep public art funding at 1.5% of the bond. It also has been updated with new information from the city on the size of the linear greenway trail system project.