The Tech Port Center and Arena, a high-tech concert venue and e-sports center that opened last year on the South Side, has a new name and plans to expand its education offerings after Boeing announced a $2.3 million investment Tuesday in partnership with the Kelly Heritage Foundation.
The name change follows a seven-year sponsorship of the center by Boeing that is separate from the investment. The amount was not announced publicly Tuesday.
Now called the Boeing Center at Tech Port, the facility has hosted events ranging from trivia nights to concerts to the State of the City address since opening just months ago.
“You are sitting inside an experiment,” said Jim Perschbach, Port San Antonio president and CEO, at the unveiling Tuesday. “Every concert that you go to, every $15 beer that you buy from us, it all goes to support the Kelly Heritage Foundation.” The foundation is an educational nonprofit organization affiliated with Port San Antonio.
The foundation’s support of the center’s education programming, developed in part by the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology, will focus on establishing skills that are key to the aerospace and space exploration industries, including robotics, artificial intelligence, 3-D printing, virtual reality, cybersecurity, visual sensors and more, according to a release.
Students from area school districts studying subjects like cybersecurity and robotics were present for the unveiling, which began with a Tesla coil concert, followed by remarks by local elected leaders, Boeing executives and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Abbott and City Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4) underscored the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) experiences for preparing students for the next generation of jobs.
“Today is about building a place right here in the heart of your community, in your backyard, where you can come and you can dream big,” Garcia said. “It’s about building a place where you can come to see some of the technologies that keep growing right here in San Antonio. These are technologies that are changing the world, making it a productive and a more safe place.”
Carrie Turner-Gray, the Cyber P-TECH coordinator at Sam Houston High School in the San Antonio Independent School District, said exposure to these technologies is especially important for students who might not otherwise be able to see them.
“This place is exactly what an education space should look like when it comes to outside cyber security,” she said. “We work really hard to give them everything that they need, but it doesn’t look anything like it does here” in a classroom, she said.
Taveya Zacharie, a 10th-grader at Sam Houston High School who marveled at the Tesla coil concert, said her passion for cars and software brought her into the STEM field, with the eventual goal of building her own car — a task that increasingly involves computers.
“I want to work with both at the same time,” she said.
Sarahbelle Medina, a ninth-grader from Sam Houston, said she likes the computer programming aspect of cybersecurity, adding that investments in facilities like the new center allow for exciting opportunities.
Students also took a tour of the security operations center Tuesday, something that can’t be replicated in a classroom.
“We’re taking kids from a Title I environment and giving them the opportunity to make six figures a year starting out,” Turner-Gray said.
The first graduating class from the P-TECH program at Sam Houston is expected to complete their coursework later this year.
Abbott said facilities and experiences like the one at the Boeing center make Texas a destination for companies and government agencies seeking cybersecurity talent.
“The innovators like Samsung, Tesla, SpaceX, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Boeing … are expanding operations or moving their headquarters to Texas,” he said. “And they’re doing that because we have the workforce training in advanced technologies like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and robotics. San Antonio is a cornerstone of this success.”
Abbott called San Antonio the “cybersecurity capital of the state of Texas,” and credited the city with helping attract the U.S. Army Futures Command, a public-private initiative that runs projects to modernize the military.
The venue is part of a broader effort at the Port of San Antonio, which houses 80 employers and 16,000 workers, with a $6 billion impact on the local economy, according to Abbott.
In addition to the $2.3 investment in the center, Boeing will develop exhibits and curriculum for the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology, which is located on the Port campus, according to the company.