Port San Antonio Directors Approve Construction of $60 Million Innovation Center
Feature Illustration (above): Exterior corner view of the Innovation Center. Courtesy: RVK.
San Antonio (Bexar County) — The Port San Antonio Board of Directors agreed late Thursday to construct a 130,000-square-foot full spectrum Innovation Center.
The concept for this facility is based on their acknowledgement that there is a need for a place where people may:
Integrate employment, education and entrepreneurial opportunities
Provide education at all levels with industry; and
Connect technology innovators with domestic and international markets
The Innovation Center is intended to become a leading destination that engages hundreds of thousands of people annually. Visitors would come from Texas, the nation and overseas. They’ll include competitors and spectators of major eSports events; students and families participating in entertainment, cultural and learning experiences; and gatherings of leading tech experts wanting to collaborate as they create, showcase and sell their latest innovations.
Upper level perspective of the arena at Port SA Innovation Center. Courtesy: RVK.
With a project cost of about $60 million, the innovation center will be funded through a commercial loan that Port San Antonio will repay through multiple revenue streams generated by the facility–including entertainment events, conferences, and industry partnerships.
The Innovation Center’s feasibility analysis, business plan and design were developed over the course of nearly two years by the Port and American Triple I Partners—a fund management firm overseeing major development projects nationwide.
Simple floor plan of the Innovation Center. Courtesy: RVK.
Construction will begin this summer, with completion scheduled for early 2022. It will be led by Sundt Construction with designs created by San Antonio-based RVK Architects.
Upon completion, the Innovation Center will be operated by ASM Global. The Los Angeles -based company manages over 300 stadiums, convention centers, theaters, and unique venues around the world. It also specializes in organizing its hosted activities, which include conventions, sporting events, gaming competitions, and concerts, as well as business, cultural and entertainment offerings.
To further bolster Port SA’s economic development mandate, the Board of Directors has also directed that profits from the innovation center support tech-focused K-12, college-level and professional development programs.
The building’s key components under a single roof will serve multiple functions simultaneously. These functions include:
A 2,500-seat state-of-the-art technology arena that can be configured for different uses, including eSports competitions, concerts, product launches and large training programs. Retractable seating will allow the space to host conventions and conferences.
Space that will serve as the new home of the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT), which will host numerous hands-on exhibits, demonstrations and classes. The area will also serve to showcase current technologies as part of educational programs and to help companies demonstrate their innovations to prospective buyers.
Integrated classrooms and meeting spaces to further support educational programs, smaller industry meetings and collaboration among different partners and their clients.
A research and development lab that will provide scalable space and prototyping/fabrication equipment to support the work of startups. It will also allow greater collaboration between technology companies of all sizes with universities and other research partners to advance specific projects.
As a leading destination and community gathering space for a wide range of users, the facility will also feature a large 24-hour electronic gaming area and a full-scale food hall, including catering support for the various events hosted at the center.
Integrated virtual technology throughout the facility will give it global reach. Features will include teleconferencing systems that facilitate greater collaboration among researchers and educational institutions. It will also be equipped with broadcasting capabilities to stream entertainment and other content developed at the innovation center in real-time to audiences that could number in the millions.
By locating in the heart of the 1,900-acre Port SA campus, the new facility will be at the center of major activities that are transforming the economic trajectory of South Texas.
Spanning a large swath of the former Kelly Air Force Base—where innovations in flight have been launched since the dawn of aviation—the campus has been on an accelerated path as a place where a growing number new technologies are developed. In turn, these breakthroughs are transforming the safety and productivity of key global industries.
In addition to aviation, these include manufacturing, information network security, medicine, energy, and supply chains. In the process, as they continue to create jobs, industries based at the Port generate over $5.6 billion in regional economic activity each year.
“Our Board has been hard at work to ensure that the Port serves as a strategic asset for all people in our region,” said Port San Antonio Board Chair Chris Alderete.
“Today, we have taken another major step forward in delivering on that promise to create a place that is welcoming to all people in our community,” she added. “The Innovation Center will be a venue that is exciting as it inspires, teaches and helps people connect with new career and business opportunities—from global companies to San Antonio’s small business owners who need a place to develop their ideas and market them to the world. We’re excited to continue expanding and strengthening a strategic economic growth model that is an example to the nation.”
“In an increasingly connected world, there are unprecedented opportunities for innovators who can address today’s challenges while opening doors to new systems that benefit all humankind,” said Port SA President and CEO Jim Perschbach.
“By building an ecosystem in San Antonio that is exciting and easily accessible to millions of individuals and empowers them so they can be part of that tidal change—through education, through employment and as innovators and entrepreneurs—we keep raising our profile as a leading innovation destination,” Perschbach continued. “This will accelerate job and economic growth in our region, and it will increasingly allow us to compete globally based on the value of our technology and the talent of our people.”
Triple-I CEO and Co-CIO David Cibrian said, “The ultimate value of a development project is measured by the positive and lasting impact it has on a community. Our team is tremendously proud to have partnered with Port San Antonio to create a unique and strategic place like no other in the country—able to amplify and grow a vision that has already touched the lives of thousands of families across our community.”
Of particular significance, the innovation center will increase the reach of innovative learning experiences that inspire and educate people—from K-12 students to working professionals—and guide them toward career and entrepreneurial pathways involving the tech breakthroughs originating in the region.
Ongoing efforts that will be expanded at the innovation center include the work of the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT).
The nonprofit first established its operations on the campus in 2017 in an existing 16,000-square-foot facility (a former military chapel) near the site of the upcoming Innovation Center. In just three years, the museum has leveraged its initial space and worked closely with all area school districts to deliver innovative STEM/STEAM programs to nearly 50,000 students throughout the region—or about 15,000 children per year.
Expanded space and amenities at the Innovation Center will allow the museum to easily deliver in-person programs to an estimated 150,000 students per year, including hands-on learning on a recently-launched cybersecurity simulator as well as experiences focused on robotics, space science and coding.
SAMSAT will also leverage its new home to support its work in advancing professional training programs for adults. Among these efforts is the museum’s recently-launched partnership with numerous area workforce development programs to train thousands of people who recently lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic—allowing them to acquire new skills that are in high demand by technology employers.
“The strongest connector between people and life-changing opportunities is education,” said SAMSAT President and CEO Doug King. “For the past three years, our team and scores of supporters and volunteers have been laser focused on using our initial space at the Port to create exciting programs and exhibits that truly attract, engage and inspire.”
Innovation Center front entrance, as seen at an angle from the parking lot. Courtesy: RVK.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.