The Austin Parks and Recreation Department has received an application (PDF) for renaming Pan American Neighborhood Park to Tony Castillo Pan American Neighborhood Park. In accordance with Austin Code of Ordinances sec. 14-1-39, the Department is letting the community know about the application and provide an opportunity to provide feedback. This webpage provides background information on the park, Tony Castillo, the process for renaming a park facility, and upcoming community engagement opportunities for share input.

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Upcoming Opportunities:

  • City Council Meeting
    Postponed to September 1
    September 1, 2022, 10 a.m.
    City Hall, 301 W. Second Street, Austin, TX
    Watch on ATXN Live
  • Memorandum to Parks and Recreation Board from Director: Read here (PDF, 12 MB)

Pan American Park photo with kids participating in PARD programs


In 1940, the National Youth Association (NYA) opened the Latin American Community Center in the former Comal Street School building located where Comal Pocket Park is today. When the center opened, it provided services for the Mexican American community and a space to organize for political groups such as League of the United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Mexican Patriotic Club. In 1942, NYA’s focus shifted to war efforts, and the center was given to and managed by the community. In 1946, Austin Parks and Recreation Department took over the center and installed Raul “Roy” Guerrero as the new director.

Finally in 1956, the center relocated a few blocks away to its present-day location at 2100 E. 3rd Street connected to Zavala Elementary. A naming contest was held, and the new center was designated the Pan American Recreation Center with the area surrounding the rec center called Pan American Park. The new center provided more services to the community and soon became known for boxing—a legacy that continued for decades.

The iconic Hillside Theater was added in 1958, and the performances there became extremely popular. The free performances often included a musical act and some type of talent exhibition. Some of the notable Tejano artists that performed at the Hillside Theater were Manual “Cowboy” Donley, the Nash Hernandez Orchestra, Flaco Jimenez, and a young Selena y Los Dinos. In 1978, the magnificent murals by artist Raul Valdez were added after collaboration with the community about the themes of the paintings.

The recreation Center was renamed in 1996 for Oswaldo A.B. Cantu, who was a community pillar and former boxing coach. Today, the Oswaldo AB Cantu/Pan American Recreation Center, the surrounding park, and the Hillside Theater still provide services and recreation for the community and remain a cherished space for people in East Austin.

An application for renaming the park was submitted by Derek Castillo and can be viewed here (PDF).

About Tony Castillo (adapted from application)Image of Tony Castillo and teammates with Congressman J.J. Pickle receiving trophy, 1960s

Coach Augustine "Tony" Castillo is a product of East Austin who served the community at Pan Am Park for 65 years. He attended elementary school at Zavala Elementary School, next to Pan Am Park, before attending Allan Middle School and graduating in the first class at Johnston High School. His involvement in the community dates back to his teenage years in the 1950s when he was among the founders of the Jokers softball team. He continued his efforts by organizing a Jokers basketball team and hosting league tournaments for neighborhood youth. He coached sports at his alma mater Johnston High School before moving to Akins High prior to retirement.

In addition to sports, Castillo played important roles in expanding the community’s political voice. His membership in LUCHA was significant in the election of first-time Latino office holders from East Austin that included Richard Moya, John Treviño, and Gonzalo Barrientos.

In his approach of “leading by example,” Castillo completed his studies at the University of Texas, taught in the classrooms of Austin ISD, and became head coach of the former Johnston High School Rams, leading the team to a historic “Final Four” state tournament appearance at the University of Texas in 1986.

Tony Castillo giving speech while being honored at Fastpitch Softball Hall of Fame, 2021

Photos: Above: Tony Castillo and teammates receiving trophy from Congressman J.J. Pickle, 1960s. (Photo courtesy of Derek Castilloa)
Below: Tony Castillo giving speech at Fastpitch Hall of Honor, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Derek Castillo)

Renaming a Park Facility

Austin City Code Section 14-1-39 identifies the process by which a park facility can be named or renamed. In this case, Derek Castillo submitted a nomination for renaming Pan American Neighborhood Park to Tony Castillo Pan American Park based upon the contributions Tony Castillo made to the community and the park.

As a result of this nomination the following process is taking place:

  1. After receiving a nomination for renaming a park facility [including parks], the director shall notify the council, city manager, Parks and Recreation Board (PARB), and City of Austin public information staff.
  2. This notice begins the 90-day period where PARD will receive comments regarding the nomination. 
    • PARD considers the 90-day period for this process to have begun on March 7, 2022, when the director notified the Parks and Recreation Board about the application. June 5, 2022 is the 90th day.
  3. In order to promote community engagement and input from community members, immediately on receipt of notice from the director, the PARD shall take reasonable steps to inform persons who are likely to have an interest in the naming of the facility.
  4. As soon as practicable after the deadline for receiving nominations and endorsements, the director shall submit completed nominations and endorsements to the chair of the Parks and Recreation Board (PARB).

  5. On receipt of the nominations and endorsements, PARB shall schedule and conduct a public hearing on renaming the facility.
  6. The Parks and Recreation Board shall make a written recommendation to the Council not later than the 45th day after the date the chair receives the nominations and endorsements, and shall provide a copy of the recommendation to the city manager.
  7. The city manager shall provide each council member a copy of PARB's recommendation and the nominations and endorsements received by the director. The city manager shall place an item on the council's agenda as soon as practicable after PARB makes its recommendation.

Community Engagement

During this process, community members can provide their feedback and comments. All input will be collected and presented to the Parks and Recreation Director for her recommendation to the Parks and Recreation Board. To review all comments and survey input through May 18, view this report.

City Council Meeting
September 1, 2022, 10 a.m.
City Hall, 301 W. Second Street, Austin, TX
Watch on ATXN Live

Parks and Recreation Board Meeting 
June 27, 2022, 6 p.m.
City Hall Chambers, Room 1001
301 W. Second Street, Austin, Texas 78701
View online on ATXN

Public comment will be allowed in-person or remotely by telephone. Speakers may only register to speak on an item once, either in-person or remotely, and will be allowed up to three minutes to provide their comments. Registration no later than noon the day before the meeting is required for remote participation. To register call or email the board liaison at 512-974-6716 or by emailing Tim Dombeck.

Memorandum to Parks and Recreation Board from Director: Read here (PDF, 12 MB)

Community Survey Closed on June 6

Previous Community Meetings:

Virtual Community Meeting #1
Thursday, April 28, 2022, 7 p.m.

Community Meeting #2 (in person)
Saturday, April 30, 2022, 10:30 a.m.
Oswaldo A.B. Cantu Pan American Recreation Center
2100 East 3rd St., Austin, TX 78702

Community Meeting #3 (virtual)
Thursday, May 19, 2022, 7 p.m.

Community Meeting #4 (virtual)
Thursday, June 2, 2022, 7 p.m.

Community Meeting #5 (in person)
Saturday, June 4, 2022, 10:30 a.m.
Oswaldo A.B. Cantu Pan American Recreation Center
2100 East 3rd St., Austin, TX 78702

Contact Information

For additional information, please contact the Parks and Recreation Communications and Engagement Unit by email.