Bill Would Rotate UIL Events Out of Austin

Father and son lawmakers call for holding high school state competitions in other areas of the state

Annually, tens of thousands of students, coaches, and parents come to the Austin area for athletic, academic, and musical state competitions, including the Track & Field Championships at UT's Myers Stadium.
Annually, tens of thousands of students, coaches, and parents come to the Austin area for athletic, academic, and musical state competitions, including the Track & Field Championships at UT's Myers Stadium. (Photo by Don Bender)

Every year, the battle cry for high school athletes across the state is "Austin or bust!" That's because in every sport except football – as well as in many academic, theatrical, and music events – the University Interscholastic League annually holds its championship competitions in the Austin area, often on the University of Texas campus.

That cry may have to change if the Lucio family has its way. Companion bills – House Bill 68 filed by Rep. Eddie Lucio III and Senate Bill 101 filed by his father, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., both of Brownsville – would bar the UIL (the governing body for public school competitions in Texas) from hosting "regional or statewide" competitions in the same location in consecutive years.

That could have a huge economic impact on Austin. The events bring thousands of athletes, coaches, parents, and others to the capital city, meaning hotel bookings, restaurant sales, and shopping dollars. According to the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, the total economic impact of the UIL basketball tournaments each March is $19.2 million. The boys teams draw 108,000 visitors and $11 million; the girls bring 38,000 visitors and $8.2 million. The state track meet brings an estimated 40,000 people and $8 million to town.

"The Rio Grande Valley for many, many years has been bypassed, simply because we did not, for a very long time, have the facilities," said Lucio III. "But with the economic growth, the economic development, we have so much to offer the state now. [Holding the events annually in Austin] also has an undue burden as far as costs for our school districts, for busing and hotels every year for our students, and then parents, also, having to take off from work and travel to Austin every year."

Asked what the UIL thinks of the proposal, spokeswoman Kim Rogers said that as state employees, she and other UIL staffers are prohibited from expressing an opinion on the legislation. However, listening to Rogers describe the logistics of hosting the events, it's probably a safe bet that the UIL would not enjoy the headaches of moving them from city to city. "Essentially, it would mean that we would have to move every activity every year," Rogers said. "I guess [there would be] a financial impact in just going to a new site, traveling for our staff and participants to different locations, making sure we have the same kind of accommodations. It could lead to the fact that maybe there will not be another facility in the state that could accommodate."

The Lucios leave a loophole for that last point: The bill stipulates that an event may only be held at a site if "the infrastructure and capacity of the location's facilities are sufficient to serve the needs of the competition" and that a location may be used in consecutive years "if an alternative location is not available."

The other areas of the state aren't necessarily being bypassed due to lack of facilities. Rather, Rogers says, state events have long been held here because "we are part of the University of Texas. We host a number of activities on campus at UT facilities because we are a department of UT, and we are centrally located in the state, so it makes it easier for participants traveling to state competitions. There are a number of reasons why we have our events in the places that we do. It's not arbitrary. There is some thought behind them." ­

UIL State Competition Sites

Tennis: Penick-Allison Tennis Center (UT) and Lakeway World of Tennis

Cross Country: Old Settlers Park (Round Rock)

Volleyball: Strahan Coliseum (Texas State University)

Swimming & Diving: Jamail Texas Swimming Center (UT)

Wrestling: AISD Delco Center

Basketball: Erwin Center (UT)

Soccer: Round Rock Independent School District Athletic Stadium

Golf: Austin, various courses

Track & Field: Mike A. Myers Track and Soccer Stadium (UT)

Softball: McCombs Field (UT)

Baseball: Disch-Falk Field (UT) and Dell Diamond (Round Rock)

State Marching Band: Alamodome (San Antonio)

Some other music competitions: Austin area, including UT

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University Interscholastic League, UIL, University of Texas, Eddie Lucio III, Eddie Lucio Jr., 81st Legislature

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