Texas Aquatic Center Loses Beloved Tree to Football Facility Expansion

How often do we think of the place we practice? 

We train in the same building everyday, staring at the black line that is the same at every single competition pool in the world. Instead of thinking about the beams on the ceiling or the exact color of twilight, we are imagining goals of the future or thinking about a joke our teammates said. 

The places we swim are like our roots, the unnoticed pillar that fosters our ability to grow. Through changes in coaches and teammates, the facility sits out with us through injuries, stands over us in the dark while waiting to get picked up, and stands tall over our killer sets. 

When the places we practice change, we lose a piece of our roots, our history. The University of Texas community is currently facing losing pieces of its history.

UT Austin is breaking ground on a new football practice facility in early 2024, relocating an iconic Longhorn swimming landmark outside of the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center. The iconic tree that is outside the training facility has shaded decades of swimmers from hot Texas sun and winter rain storms and is surrounded by plaques commemorating accomplishments of swimmers and divers. For anybody who grew up swimming in the state of Texas, the tree is an icon – maybe moreso than even the building it stands adjacent to.

A Place of History

For former swimmer Sarah Harlow Pooler, the tree was the site of the life changing news: there would be no 1980 Olympics for Americans. Pooler always starts the story with “under a large Texas live oak tree.” 

“On March 21, 1980, the ‘80 Olympic swim coach sat us under this live oak next to the UT Swim Center to tell us the Moscow games were being boycotted. (At 16, I’d qualified for the OT’s in 100 butterfly.) It was a pivotal moment in my life. The oak is being moved for a new Texas football training facility. I will be there in August to watch our son and CSU football play Texas but in the meantime, I’m rooting for the tree and hope she makes it.”

Several would-be 1980 Olympic participants, including Rick Carey, Kris Kirchner, William Paulus, Kim Linehan, Mary Jo Pennington, Jill Sterkel, and Susie Thayer, were Texas Longhorns.

The University of Texas has a history of moving historical trees, with a 93% survival rate for 55 trees transplanted over 15 years. 

Remember that gigantic oak tree next to the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center? The University of Texas at Austin…

Posted by Ande Rasmussen on Tuesday, January 30, 2024

The new football facility will not externally change much else to the pool due to local and state laws protecting the facility’s terrace view from obstruction due to the view of the State Capitol building. 

However, the tree outside the Texas Swim Center is not the only landmark that will be changed as a result of this training facility. 

Lost History

The building that will be destroyed because of the expansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as the now School of Social Work Building was the site of Austin’s first  integrated junior high. The group Save the Past for the Future is arguing for the preservation of the building due to negative cultural, artistic, architectural, and environmental ramifications.

In particular, a three-floor mural made by top Austin muralist Raul Valdez will be destroyed. Valdez interviewed students and worked with local elementary students in the creation of the mural. 

As of now, plans are going ahead to continue the removal of the building and the oak trees in the surrounding area. The loss of historical space will create a new football practice facility which will be an important home to the athletes.

Does loosing our roots offer room for new trees to grow? 

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2 months ago

I’m confused by the intro to this article talking about the live oak surrounded by plaques – that tree isn’t being relocated. The picture is of a tree near the facility but is behind it/ to the side. It is a great spot to tailgate and it is an incredible tree, but the one surrounded by plaques is in the front.

Spelling queen
2 months ago

Does *losing our roots offer new room to grow?

Adam Depmore
2 months ago

Having lived in Austin for 41 years, I’ve had the privilege to witness the city’s vibrant culture and rich history flourish, specifically within UT sports. UT likes to win and they are good at it.

One of the defining aspects of Austin’s identity is its strong connection to swimming, with a legacy that spans generations. The University of Texas (UT) stands at the heart of this swimming culture, boasting a massive following and a remarkable track record of success.UT swimming has a record of being really good at swimming and there is no hiding it. The culture builds champions.

Beyond its athletic achievements, UT and Austin as a whole are characterized bad being green. This greenery isn’t just a superficial… Read more »

2 months ago

I’m a Texas swimmer and a huge UT football fan who recognizes the need for the football project. But this is one of the most beautiful oak trees in Austin. I hope like hell that we
find a permanent home for it and that it survives and thrives. Really mixed emotions on this.

2 months ago

We need some tree sitters!

Awsi Dooger
2 months ago

FedEx wouldn’t have been my first choice for this

Reply to  Awsi Dooger
1 month ago

They’ll lose it somewhere,and you won’t be able to find the tracking number.Besides,Denny Hamlin is probably driving the truck.

Last edited 1 month ago by Elmer
2 months ago

All the squirrels that lived in that tree I see on the way to swim every day will be very confused I’m sure

2 months ago

I tried to stop it rip tree 😔

Beginner Swimmer at 25
Reply to  Austin
2 months ago

Shoulda hugged it harder hippie

Reply to  Beginner Swimmer at 25
2 months ago


Reply to  Austin
2 months ago

yeah austin hug it harder 😔