Lake Travis's party boat industry, rocked by the pandemic last summer, is experiencing record-high demand. Local businesses are all hands on deck as the tourism industry swells to pre-pandemic levels, bringing in increased bookings and reducing the stress of the past 14 months.
Austin's Boat Tours is booked solid this Saturday. Each of its 10 double-decker barges, which come with a water slide and cost up to $300 an hour, will take out two groups of up to 20 passengers to popular party spots such as Devil's Cove. "Things are definitely coming back together for us," co-owner and captain Angel Edwards told Austonia.
Angel and Austin Edwards are the husband-and-wife team behind Austin's Boat Tours. (Angel Edwards)
This is a welcome change from last summer. Austin's Boat Tours lost nearly all of its out-of-town business, including the East Coast bachelor and bachelorette parties that make up much of its customer base. Of the nearly 180 reservations booked in January 2020, almost every single one was canceled and either refunded or credited toward a future visit. "We barely—barely—made it through the pandemic," Edwards said.
Now the business's phones are ringing off the hook. Booking inquiries include not only boat parties but also related services, including a food and bartender service on the boats; a party bus that can transport tours from central Austin to their private marina on Lake Travis; and two lakeside rental properties, where parties can go while visiting town. "Our overhead is so high," Edwards said, citing property taxes as a particular concern. "Thank God we're back in business."
Passengers feel similarly. Edwards, who runs Austin's Boat Tours with her husband, the business's namesake, was recently serenaded by a bachelor party, whose members sang Shaggy's "Girl, You're My Angel" in harmony. "People are just so thankful to get out and have fun again," she said.
Austin's Boat Tours is not alone in reporting an uptick in demand. Brian Hill, owner of Premier Party Cruises, has booked 550 tours through August, more than any year on record. The company's next best year was in 2019, when it booked 380 tours. "We've already surpassed our mark," he said of the 2021 season. "Let's keep our foot on the gas."
Lake Travis Yacht Rentals is asking customers to book online to minimize unnecessary phone calls and emails. "OUR STAFF IS OVERWHELMED!" the business wrote in a recent Facebook post.
Cody Jones, assistant commander for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, anticipates this summer will be even busier than last, when boater and swimming volume spiked, and that party boat businesses will benefit from the rising tide. "I certainly believe they're going to see a large increase this summer," he said.
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Tesla’s Austin presence is becoming even greater as the automaker plans for a nearly 52,000-square-foot showroom in northeast Austin.
A filing with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation reveals Tesla will have the dealership at 2323 Ridgepoint Drive, near the intersection of 290 and 183. It’ll serve as Tesla’s fourth Austin showroom once it reaches its expected completion in February next year.
Boyd Watterson Asset Management is listed as the owner of the one story building that will undergo renovations and alterations totaling $1.5 million. Illinois-based Chipman Design Architecture is listed as the design firm.
Tesla’s other Austin showrooms include one at the Domain, another off of Research Boulevard in northwest Austin and at The Yard in South Austin. The site on St. Elmo Road was built just last year with an estimated $2.5 million price tag.
News of the showroom comes shortly after Tesla applied for expansions at its headquarters in southeast Travis County. According to filings, Tesla may build a 500,000-square-foot building for two general assembly lines at Giga Texas.
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Now’s your chance to see a Spurs game without a trip to San Antonio.
The 2022-23 NBA schedule has been released and it includes the “I-35 Series,” with two games at The Moody Center April 6 and April 8. For the first game, the Spurs will be playing the Portland Trail Blazers and the next will be against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Season ticket holders can secure their seats on Sept. 21 and all other tickets will go on sale Sept. 28.
It's here y'all! Our #Spurs50 anniversary season is set 🗓
MORE: https://t.co/1FJbFOmVpx pic.twitter.com/5Ic8gu1cx4
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) August 17, 2022
The Spurs already have a significant Austin presence both through their minor league affiliate, the G-League Austin Spurs, and its ownership, which announced Austin billionaire Michael Dell as a new “strategic partner" in June 2021. You'll also see a new logo on this season's jersey: Austin-based fin-tech company Self Financial.
During a May Bexar County commissioner's meeting, The San Antonio Spurs were approved in a 3-2 vote to move some of its games out of San Antonio and its current home stadium, the AT&T Center. The plan came as a way to boost revenue and cater to its far-reaching fan base.
By the 2023-2024 season, two games will be allowed within 100 miles of AT&T Center as part of the two-year "pilot program.” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said those games could take place in the Alamodome or San Marcos but that Austin would likely be the top contender.
The multi-purpose stadium in San Antonio has a 65,000 capacity, which the team says could allow them to break an attendance record for an NBA regular season game.
While some have taken their coming Austin games as a sign of a future move for the Spurs, the team was quick to shut down those rumors.
The team, which is celebrating 50 years in San Antonio after relocating from Dallas, said it is not looking for an exit but made the plans for games in other cities after stumbling sales amid the pandemic.
While average home attendance plummeted to 27th among the 30 NBA teams this season, the team has a pricey non-relocation agreement through the 2031-2032 season and has recently embarked on a $500 million mixed-use facility in San Antonio's La Cantera area.
The Spurs will also have a game in Mexico City on Dec. 17 and a Jan. 13 game at the Alamodome. Tickets for those go on sale Sept. 10 and Sept. 1, respectively.