No Rush to Rename Auditorium Shores

Council delays name change to "Vic Mathias Shores"

There's a move afoot to rename Auditorium Shores' eastern section at right Vic Mathias Shores
There's a move afoot to rename Auditorium Shores' eastern section at right Vic Mathias Shores

City Council’s decision last week to put the brakes on renaming part of Auditorium Shores after civic leader Vic Mathias may have created one of the more awkward moments in the city's renaming history.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell, chief sponsor of the resolution, had called for immediate approval of the name change of the park's east lawn, which would have bypassed the customary 90-day renaming process for city parks. Council took similar hasty actions (but not without some protest)in changing Town Lake to Lady Bird Lake, after the former first lady, and naming the hike and bike trail after former Mayor Roy Butler and his wife Ann.

Mathias, who died last year, was CEO of the Chamber of Commerce from 1956 to 1983 and co-founded Austin Aqua Fest, an annual event held at Auditorium Shores for much of its lifetime.

With Mathias’ elderly widow Helen Mathias, children, grandchildren, and prominent figureheads on hand May 22 for what they expected to be a ceremonial name-changing, things hit a rough patch when resolution co-sponsor Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole instead countered with a motion to put the Mathias proposal through the 90-day process.

Cole wore a pained expression as she explained that questions had been raised about whether Mathias had been involved in the city’s unfortunate repeal of the 1968 Fair Housing Ordinance. She said her office did not find any evidence linking Mathias to the repeal but she thought the right thing to do would be to let the renaming process run its course, which includes a review by the Parks and Recreation Board.

Cole, who is African American, recalled the city’s civil rights battles relating to fair housing, noting, “The deed to my home says no coloreds allowed.”

Leffingwell fumed over Cole’s comments, calling the suggestion that Mathias may have played a role in the fair housing repeal “vicious rumors.” In the end the vote was six to one (Leffingwell) to delay the park’s name change.

Several civic boosters who spoke on Mathias’ behalf leading up to the vote sported what appeared to be Aqua Fest skipper pins on their lapels. Yet part of Aqua Fest’s early history was not exactly a shining moment in the city’s history. The event, which was initiated to showcase the city’s water attractions in an attempt to boost the economy, originated at Festival Beach in East Austin, in what was then a predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood. Residents opposed the loud ruckus created by the festival’s motorboat races on Town Lake. Protests turned violent in 1978, ultimately sinking the boat races and leading to the prohibition of motorized boats on the lake. The festival then relocated to Auditorium Shores and morphed into a music festival.

Council Member Mike Martinez provided the second to Cole’s motion and said that while he supported changing the name of the east lawn to Vic Mathias Shores, he also believed the delay was appropriate in light of the iconic nature of the park. The east end of Auditorium Shores is the site of a number of festivals and special events each year. The park is currently undergoing a makeover.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Auditorium Shores
Austin City Limits Goes One Louder
Austin City Limits Goes One Louder
Council considers doubling ACL, plus C3 eyes Auditorium Shores

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 1, 2012

More by Amy Smith
The Work Matters
The Work Matters
A look back at some of our most impactful reporting

Sept. 3, 2021

Well-Behaved? Let's Assume Not.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story
Barbara Leaming's new biography makes the case that Jackie O suffered from PTSD

Nov. 28, 2014


Auditorium Shores, Vic Mathias, City Council, Sheryl Cole, Lee Leffingwell, Aqua Fest

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle