Zilker Park is a City Of Austin owned and operated park that comprises over 350 acres of publicly owned land in the heart of south Austin. Named after its benefactor Andrew Jackson Zilker, who donated the land to the city in 1917, it was developed into the park by the Civilian Conservation Corps. during the Great Depression in the 1930s and many of it's structures and designs date from or are based on that era. In addition to the ACL Festival the park serves as a home for many recreational sports and activities and the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake, both of which run next to the park.
According to the city of Austin Parks Foundation web site the Soccer Fields in Zilker Park, where the Austin City Limits Music Festival takes place, was scheduled to be closed from January through June of 2009 for a complete revamping including installation of automatic irrigation, field leveling and resodding with grass. "The project will take 2-3 months to complete and then another 2-3 months to allow the grass to become established."
In the end the area referred too as the "Great Lawn" reopened in late August of 2009 after being closed for nearly a year during the $2.5 million renovation project.
In an agreement with the City Of Austin, C3 Presents, Austin City Limits Music Festival producers, donated funding for the improvements, including an irrigation system, drinking fountains and 46 acres of turf replacement to support use of the park.
That new sod was heavily damaged less than 2 months later during the 2009 ACL Festival event after sudden storms brewed up and soaked the festival, requiring replacement and repair of areas referred to as "mud pits" according to the Austin American Statesman. According to the newspaper the "weight of the 65,000 festival-goers each day pushed the mud up through the newly planted sod, which was drenched by Saturday rains" and "most of the grounds appeared to be covered with mud Monday".
But it wasn't all just mud, as the Festival had dumped 800 bales of hay during the weekend to try to absorb some of the moisture and it also contained Dillo Dirt, a fertilizer the city had laid down before the new grass was planted. Dillo Dirt is a compost the city makes from treated sewage sludge and yard trimmings collected curbside and the combination left festival goers a foul smelling mud caked mess. Luckily "It is commonly used in backyard gardening and poses no health threat" said Stuart Strong, assistant director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department.
Based on the photo map below (courtesy Google Maps), the toll taken by the subsequent 2010 ACL Festival and other concert and sports events as well as the severe and prolonged drought have left the park in rough shape.