Unique state-of-the-art facility will build on proven strategy that has already deployed numerous tech breakthroughs while creating thousands of strong careers in South Texas.
SAN ANTONIO — Port San Antonio, the big technology campus that is home to leading aerospace, cybersecurity, defense, robotics, and other advanced operations, continues to accelerate the pace of American ingenuity.
On Thursday, August 13, the Port San Antonio Board of Directors approved construction of a full spectrum innovation center that will significantly advance the organization’s Tech Port vision, which is based on three core principles:
- Connect people with employment, educational and entrepreneurial opportunities.
- Connect education at all levels with industry.
- Connect technology innovators with domestic and international markets.
Today, the campus is home to over 14,000 jobs, of which nearly 4,000 have been added by the Port’s tenant customers since the Tech Port vision was launched in 2018.
The upcoming space will be a leading destination that engages hundreds of thousands of people annually from throughout the region, across the country and around the world. They will include competitors and spectators of major esports events; students and their families participating in entertainment, cultural and learning experiences; and leading experts who will use the facility to collaborate while they create, showcase and sell their latest technological innovations.
Animated video of innovation center rendering (credit: RVK Architects)
The new building will span 130,000 square feet. Project costs will total approximately $60 million. It will be funded through a commercial loan, which the Port will repay through multiple revenue streams generated by the facility, including entertainment events, conferences, and industry partnerships.
To further bolster the Port’s economic development mandate, the Board of Directors has also directed that profits from the innovation center will support technology-focused K-12, college-level and professional development programs.
The building’s key components under a single roof will serve multiple functions simultaneously. They are:
- 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.
Rendering of exterior of upcoming innovation center at Port San Antonio (credit: Port San Antonio / RVK Architects)
Rendering of technology arena at upcoming innovation center at Port San Antonio (credit: Port San Antonio / RVK Architects)
Rendering — as a destination that can host thousands of people simultaneously, the upcoming innovation center will include amenities such as an expansive food hall (credit: Port San Antonio / RVK Architects)
Floor plan of upcoming innovation center at Port San Antonio (credit: Port San Antonio / RVK Architects)
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.
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.
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.
By locating in the heart of the 1,900-acre Port campus—already one of the nation’s fastest-growing innovation destinations—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 President and CEO Jim Perschbach.
“From making longstanding industries like transportation and manufacturing safer and more productive to looking at outer space to harness limitless energy for billions of people, we are living in the most exciting moment in the history of technology. To be part of those opportunities, we need to act now and move boldly,” he added.
“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.”
“The ultimate value of a development project is measured by the positive and lasting impact it has on a community,” said Triple-I CEO and Co-CIO David Cibrian. “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. Together, we look forward on advancing the Port’s role as a place for building futures and to also create a proven, robust model that other American communities can draw upon.”
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.
Nearly 50,000 students have already participated in innovative STEM/STEAM programs at the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology. The upcoming space will provide capacity to grow the programs ten-fold, including hands-on exhibits like the cybersecurity simulator launched by the museum earlier this year.
Expanded space and amenities at the upcoming 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.”
“We’re already seeing the results of those labors, as word has spread throughout our community about the learning experiences and career pathways we’re building,” he added. “With the upcoming innovation center just a few months away, we are tremendously excited to broaden our reach and have a lasting effect in building people’s talent across generations.”
The innovation center in the heart of the Port’s 1,900-acre campus will be located within 10 minutes southwest of downtown and other major technology hubs in San Antonio. The upcoming facility will be surrounded by a growing array of private- and public-sector employers in leading technologies and the defense sector. San Antonio, dubbed “Military City U.S.A.,” is also home to major DoD and other security operations within the Port campus and nearby. They will similarly have access to the innovation center as part of training, demonstrations, and social events. Among them is neighboring Lackland AFB—where nearly 40,000 airmen undergo basic training each year. (Credit: Port San Antonio)
Since Port San Antonio launched its Tech Port blueprint in 2018, employers on the campus have created nearly 4,000 new jobs. More than 80 public- and private-sector organizations operate at the Port, including global names such as Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and StandardAero. The campus is also home to local firms that are expanding rapidly as they serve a global clientele, such as CNF Technologies, IPSecure, Knight Aerospace, Plus One Robotics and Reckon Point.
The site also houses major Department of Defense operations, including the Air Force’s cybersecurity headquarters (16th Air Force) and other commands that specialize in engineering, environmental science and medical operations.
These and other Port customers continue to fill hundreds of positions in some of the region’s best-paid careers, and their expertise has been in growing demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, in an increasingly connected world, their innovations will continue to grow in relevance and applications long past the current global crisis.
Recent examples include Plus One Robotics’ systems that are now deployed at FedEx’s main hub in Memphis, Tennessee to significantly increase operational capacity and worker safety while creating new careers in robotic network supervision.
Similarly, Knight Aerospace has developed state-of-the-art self-contained medical units that allow for life-saving air transportation of seriously ill and highly contagious patients.
And the Port will soon be home to the Alamo Regional Security Collaboration Center (ARSOC)—the country’s first integrated information security operation focused on protection of municipal utilities and other critical infrastructure against growing domestic and international cyberattacks.
The Port is home to startup companies like Reckon Point, whose precision indoor mapping technology has applications that greatly benefit numerous industries, including real estate management, architectural design, supply-chain management in factories and hospitals and even lunar exploration. At the innovation center, similar entrepreneurs can access a scalable research and development / technology lab to design, build and test their new products.
Tech companies at the Port work very closely with area universities and researchers. As an example, Port customer Intertek—one of the world’s leading emissions testing services providers—recently collaborated with the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Department of Engineering to improve the speed and accuracy of its systems. The upcoming innovation center—especially the tech collaboration / R&D lab—will greatly facilitate these types of projects.
In 2019, the Port and partners that included the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation and City of San Antonio led an industry showcase in Atlanta, Georgia, during one of the world’s largest aerospace conferences. There, they presented robotic, artificial intelligence and virtual technologies that have applications to aviation and that were developed by Port customers, Southwest Research Institute and the University of Texas at San Antonio. The industry showroom at the upcoming innovation center will similarly present new technologies to educate and train current and future talent and also to identify private- and public-sector buyers of those products.