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East Austin community members oppose name change for Pan American Neighborhood Park

On Tuesday, community members and organizations held a press conference to discuss their opposition to renaming the park.

AUSTIN, Texas — Residents in East Austin want to protect the history of one of the area's most historic parks.

Pan American Neighborhood Park, also known as Pan Am Park, could soon have a new name – and some aren't quite on board with it.

The Austin City Council is expected to vote Thursday on renaming the park to Tony Castillo/Pan American Neighborhood Park. Castillo is an Austin native with more than 65 years of community work in East Austin. His son, Derek Castillo, nominated him for the renaming due to his lengthy amount of community service and involvement. 

Tony Castillo founded competitive sports teams and served on the Pan American Community Advisory Board. He helped elect first-time Latino office holders from East Austin.

He has been honored by having two baseball fields in East Austin named after him. His son said renaming this park is an opportunity. 

“This is a chance to honor someone for their decades of service. It’s also a chance to cement a bit of history," said Derek Castillo. “He spent 60 years of his time, and he’s still going, volunteering in some capacity at Pan Am Park.”

In a survey done by the Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department, 79% of surveyors were in support of renaming the park, but 19% were not. When looking at City Council District 3, which is home to the park, 51% of surveyors are not in favor of renaming while 49% are. 

Anna Maciel, who serves as the president of the Pan Am Advisory Board, is working alongside her colleagues to maintain the park's original name.

"Oswaldo A.B. Cantu was a wonderful example for our community, and that's why it's named after him, because he really embraced the community. And we want to make sure we continue that tradition that we have at Pan Am," Maciel said. 

The park also houses the Oswaldo A.B. Cantu/Pan American Recreation Center.

The Pan Am Advisory Board said it supports Tony Castillo and his service, but it expressed that keeping the original name is crucial to preserving what East Austin has left for the next generation.

The park has been hosting Tejano summer concerts since 1956.

"Pan Am holds the annual Pan Am Hillside Concert series, which is the longest running outside concert series in Austin, and we take pride in all of that. We have so many musicians that have been on our stage," Maciel said.

East Austin community members and organizations held a press
conference Tuesday at 10 a.m. at 2000 East Third St. to announce their opposition to an application to rename Pan Am Neighborhood Park.

The Austin Parks and Recreation Board at its June 27 meeting agreed with the community and voted to recommend that the council not rename the park. Instead, the board recommended providing a plaque to recognize Tony Castillo.

The city council is expected to vote on Sept. 1.

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