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Council Hopes to Shore Up Fun Fun Fun's 'Flex Space' Squabble

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Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News
Fun Fun Fun Fest will take place this year, as in previous years, at Auditorium Shores park. But, this year the city may not let the fest extend to the new off leash dog area.

Fun Fun Fun Fest is set for November, but festival organizers don’t yet know how much of Auditorium Shores they’ll be able to use.

The battle, it turns out, is over a three-acre tract of dog park.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department says they never promised this area for festival use. Fun Fun Fun Fest organizers say at least part of this space is essential to making the festival work.

City Council will wade into the issue tomorrow.

To better understand what’s involved in this fight, picture three pieces of land. To the far right lies a big lawn designed for festival use. To the far left lie roughly three acres of off-leash dog park — that’s off-limits to the festival. In the center is one and a half acres of “flex” space – or add-on space [pictured below as the 'transitional area'] that Fun Fun Fun Fest can use. 

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Credit Austin Parks Department
A map of Auditorium Shores shows the off leash area to the far left, of which one acre (on the right of the area) is in contention. Fun Fun Fun Fest organizers have requested to use that acre to put up the stage, which they say won't fit in the area because of a fence that's not fully movable.

But there’s a fence between that middle space and the large lawn. The fence was supposed to be “movable,” but the Parks department says there are some posts, about six feet apart, that can’t be taken down.

“The word movable versus removable is kind of coming into question,” says Jason Maurer with the Parks Department.

The festival’s organizer Transmission Events says it can’t fit a stage in that flex area because of those posts. So, it’s asking Parks, why not let us use an acre of that three-acre dog park instead?

“What was not committed to was that all the events would get access to the off-leash area,” Maurer says. When Council approved the Auditorium Shores Improvement Plan in 2013, it instructed the Parks Department to accommodate Fun Fun Fun Fest, but it also made sections, including the off-leash area, of the park off-limits to the festival. 

Bobby Garza with Transmission Events says this one-acre exchange would satisfy festival space needs, but they’ll still be working with a smaller space than years before.

“It’s definitely a compromise for us. Historically, we’ve taken all of that space,” Garza says. He says Transmission isn't asking for special treatment, just that the city allow the festival to take up as much space as it has in the past.

In June, former Mayor Lee Leffingwell and former Council Member Mike Martinez wrote Garza nearly identical letters to express concerns about the moveable barrier, which, in the 2013 negotiations, was "a factor that alleviated some of [Council's] concern at the time," Leffingwell said in his letter.

Both remarked Parks and Recreation could make an "administrative decision" on acreage ceded to Transmission without going before council, but that the flex space was meant to "allow events to maximize the space."

So, the council resolution tomorrow is a half-step into the fracas – it requests City Manager Mark Ott to intervene to accommodate both the Parks and Recreation Department and Fun Fun Fun Fest, giving Transmission as much space as possible, while still keeping the off-leash park.

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