AUSTIN, Texas–A recommendation to reopen the Tower observation deck at The University of Texas at Austin was approved Thursday (Nov. 12) by the UT System Board of Regents. Public tours are expected to begin by the end of next spring.
Regents approved the request by UT Austin President Larry R. Faulkner at their meeting in Houston. Faulkner made the recommendation to reopen the Tower observation deck after hearing from a special committee considering the issues of safety, access for visitors with disabilities, management, required renovations and associated costs. He appointed the committee in response to a request by campus student leaders.
“Dr. Faulkner has recommended we reopen the Tower observation deck and invite the people of Texas to view their campus and to renew their sense of ownership in the University. It is my belief that the action the board has taken will have that effect,” said UT System Board of Regents Chairman Donald L. Evans. To commemorate the action, Evans adjourned the meeting using a gavel made of timber from the original Main Building.
Faulkner has called the Tower the most important symbol of academic aspiration and achievement in Texas. “It also is the strongest image uniting members of the University community. In the words of its designer, architect Paul Cret, the Tower is ‘the heart of the University…the image carried in our memory when we think of the place.’ We should actively use this icon of higher education in positive ways,” Faulkner said.
The annual costs for opening the observation deck are estimated to be $86,000, and capital costs associated with the reopening are estimated at $450,000 to $500,000. An admission fee will be charged to support the costs associated with tour operations. The fee is expected to be about $5 or $6 for the general public and a reduced cost for UT Austin students.
The major capital items are installation of a physical safety barrier, elevator modifications, refurbishment of various public areas and modifications providing wheelchair access to the observation deck. A nationally known craftsman in ironwork and construction will be engaged to design, construct and install the barrier so it will be consistent with the historical context of the Main Building.
It is anticipated that a final design and method for installation of the barrier will be presented to the regents at the February 1999 meeting. Tours of the observation deck could begin around the time of UT’s 1999 spring commencement ceremonies in May. At that time, certain portions of the operation may be scheduled for student tours and groups, possibly giving priority to graduating seniors.