Tech event arena, co-working space envisioned for Port San Antonio

February 22, 2019 GMT

Gamers could soon duke it out in video tournaments splashed across huge screens while techies race drones and maneuver robots through obstacle courses at Port San Antonio.

Those are a few of the uses Jim Perschbach, the port’s president and CEO, envisions for the proposed Innovation Center.

The center would be located in existing buildings at the campus, the 1,900-acre former Kelly Air Force Base southwest of downtown, potentially serving as a hub for training programs in virtual and augmented reality and cybersecurity.

The facility would also house local tech pioneer David Monroe’s San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology, an existing institution at the port with exhibits and artifacts chronicling the Alamo City’s tech history. Other uses include co-working, classroom and conference space and a food court.

While Port San Antonio is best known for the aerospace companies and manufacturers working there, Perschbach is pushing to expand its place in San Antonio’s high-tech scene.

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Renderings show early, “very conceptual” ideas for the center, Perschbach said. Port executives are talking to on- and off-site companies, government agencies, educational institutions and other groups about how the space could be used.

There’s no fixed timeline yet, he said, but port officials hope it will come together “fairly quickly.”

A gaming arena could attract young technology enthusiasts to the port, entertaining them “in the shadow of a career opportunity,” said District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña. It also presents a big opportunity for San Antonio and the South Side to snag a slice of the growing gaming industry, he said.

The project is part of the plan Perschbach laid out last summer, when he assumed leadership of the port, for “a virtually- and physically connected campus.”

He said older industries need to work with technology innovators and entrepreneurs, especially as the world becomes more connected, and the port is a place where that’s happening.

The new Project Tech building is designed to draw more cybersecurity and information-technology jobs to the port. Lockheed Martin was the first tenant to move in, and cybersecurity company LGS Innovations recently announced plans to set up a cyber hub at the facility.

The Innovation Center would serve as a place where students could learn about technology and craft their own products, companies and government entities could showcase employment opportunities and startups could work on developing ideas.

“We want it to be used by people all over the community,” Perschbach said. “We want it to spark the recognition, nationally and globally, that there’s a lot of really exciting stuff happening in San Antonio.”