Public invited to help determine future of Seaholm intake building

June 18, 2017
Jay Janner
Laurie Allen rides her handcycle in the Run With the Heroes 5K at Camp Mabry on Nov. 13. Now she’s preparing for Jack’s Generic Triathlon in August. JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Want a say in what becomes of the old Seaholm water intake structure?

The Austin Parks Foundation and the Trail Foundation are funding a study to help decide what to do with the old art deco building and some surrounding parkland next to the river downtown. They’re working in partnership with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department.

“It has such opportunity to become a transformational space,” says Colin Wallis, executive director of the Austin Parks Foundation. “It’s on the water, it’s downtown, it’s on the trail and it’s on a 3.5-acre piece of parkland. It needs to be a space the public uses, so we really need the public to chime in on whether it should it be a riverside bar or stand-up paddleboard headquarters or a yoga studio or a wedding venue. We want to hear people’s ideas, because ultimately they are going to be the ones to support it.”

The study area will span between the Pfluger Bridge and Shoal Creek, and from the lake’s edge to Cesar Chavez Street.

Input from stakeholder meetings, public open houses and online platforms will be used to determine what happens next. Architecture firm Studio Gang will collaborate with Austin subconsultants including Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Datum Engineering and Urban Design Group on the project.

The Seaholm Power Plant and intake structure, built in the 1950s, provided power to the city until 1989. In 1996, city officials authorized its decommissioning.

The first meeting is from 9 a.m. to noon June 24 at the intake facility. For more information, go to

Return to triathlon

Two and a half years after she was paralyzed in a fall, Laurie Allen is returning to the world of triathlon.

Allen, 46, plans to race in Jack’s Generic Triathlon in August.

She’ll do a modified version of the sprint course, swimming partway out the buoy line of the swim course, biking in the neighborhood surrounding the race course, then using a handcycle for an out-and-back run.

“I’m not quite ready to do the entire thing, but it’s time to be back on the race course,” she says. “My biggest concerns are impacting other racers and keeping the volunteers out after everyone is finished. But I have to start somewhere.”

Race organizers will set up a special transition area for Allen, a longtime triathlete who once scheduled her life around training sessions and endurance races. She completed nine Ironman races and an array of shorter events.

RELATED: Triathlete returns to racing nearly two years after paralyzing fall

She was soaking in a hot tub in February 2015 when she got out to cool off. The side was icy, and with no railing to stop her, she fell 10 feet, fracturing a vertebra and tearing ligaments in her neck. She underwent surgery the following morning, but the damage was severe. Initially she couldn’t move anything below her shoulders, although she now has some function in her arms and hands.

Within a few weeks of the accident, though, Allen already was broadcasting plans to return to the racing world. Since then she has worked hard to strengthen the muscles that still work. With the help of friends and coaches, she’s relearning how to swim and bike. In November, she used a handcycle to complete her first 5K since the accident.

The triathlon will mark a special milestone. The race is set for Aug. 6 at Lake Pflugerville.

In a pickle

No, you don’t need a pickle to play pickleball.

“It’s kind of a cross between pingpong and tennis, maybe a little racquetball thrown in,” says Pam Boyd, executive director of a new nonprofit organization called Greater Austin Pickleball, which promotes the sport.

The club, which already has attracted more than 120 members, will celebrate with a grand opening party from 6 to 9 p.m. at Austin Tennis and Pickleball, 7800 Johnny Morris Road. Live music, food trucks, skill games and open play are planned, and Sarah Ansboury, one of the top female players in the country, will attend.

The game unfolds on a court, not a table, and uses a paddle instead of a racket. The ball looks more like a whiffle ball than a tennis ball, and the court is about the size of a badminton court.

Although retirement communities embraced the game early on, its popularity is now growing among younger players, some of whom see it as an alternative to tennis. It’s less competitive and more social. The court is smaller so you don’t have to chase the ball as far, and if you get whacked with a pickleball you’re less likely to sustain bodily damage.

Tennis players, by the way, seem to excel at it, Boyd says.

“We’ve had members who have lost 40 pounds playing this game, everyone is incredibly nice, it’s easy to pick up, easy for young and old,” she says.

No official word on how the name came about, although one theory involves a dog named Pickles who excelled at retrieving wayward whiffle balls.

League play has already begun. Tournaments, social events and a guys-only Friday Night (pickleball) Fight Club are planned. For more information and links to about 20 local places to play pickleball, go to

Take a dip

If you’re reading this, you probably live in Central Texas. That means you’ll be exposed to fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk temperatures any day now, and you’ll want a place to ease the sizzle.

Grab a copy of “The Swimming Holes of Texas” (University of Texas Press; $21.95) to decide where to cool your heels. The book, by Julie Wernersbach and Carolyn Tracy, provides details on where to find dozens of the state’s best swimming spots, from Central Texas standbys like Barton Springs Pool, Blue Hole Park, Krause Springs and Hamilton Pool to farther-flung places like Balmorhea State Park, Possum Kingdom State Park and Ratcliff Recreation Area.

Bike Circuit of the Americas

If you haven’t made it to Circuit of the Americas to ride your bike, fear not.

Holland Racing and Special Events, the Austin company that organized the series of Tuesday night rides at the racetrack, has extended the event through the end of June. The Tuesday night rides, which are open to cyclists of all skill levels, have drawn as many as 800 cyclists, according to Andrew Willis, president of Holland Racing.

Intimidated? Don’t be. The Tuesday night events are rides, not races, on the twisting track.

Holland Racing also signed a contract to hold four Saturday night criterium-style races at COTA. The remaining races are scheduled for July 15, Aug. 19 and Sept. 30.