Port San Antonio’s board of directors approved the design and construction of the campus’ highly anticipated 130,000-square-foot innovation center Thursday afternoon.

With construction set to begin in the upcoming weeks, the $60 million project could open at the heart of the Port San Antonio campus as soon as 2022, a statement released by the Port said. 

Leaders of the sprawling industrial campus hope the upcoming space will become a world-competitive destination for esports enthusiasts, science education, and innovation. 

“The innovation center will … inspire, teach, and help 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,” said Port San Antonio board Chair Chris Alderete. 

Plans for the center, which is to become the new home of the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology, include a 2,500-seat technology arena that can be configured for esports competitions, concerts, or tech demonstrations. It also will have classrooms and meeting spaces, a research and development lab, a 24-hour electronic gaming area, and a full-scale food court. 

Features of the center include teleconferencing systems to allow for collaboration between researchers and educators, broadcasting capabilities to stream entertainment and other content developed at the innovation center, and integrated virtual technology throughout the facility.

Construction is set to be led by Sundt Construction, using designs from San Antonio-based architecture firm RVK Architects. Upon completion, the innovation center is to be operated by ASM Global, a Los Angeles-based company that manages over 300 stadiums, convention centers, theaters, and venues around the world.

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. 

Port President and CEO Jim Perschbach called the board’s approval an exciting moment and said it is important to continue to make San Antonio a key part in bringing the future of technology to everyone.

“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,” Perschbach said. 

The construction of the innovation center will be funded through a commercial loan, which the Port plans to repay through multiple revenue streams generated by the facility, including entertainment events, conferences, and industry partnerships, the statement said. 

To further adhere to the Port’s economic development goals, the board has directed that profits from the innovation center support technology-focused education for students and adults and professional development programs.

“Our board has been hard at work to ensure that the Port serves as a strategic asset for all people in our region,” Alderete said.

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report. A native San Antonian, she graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a degree in telecommunication media...