In what may be the largest outdoor event held in the city’s downtown since the pandemic began, more than a thousand techies and urban professionals are gathering at a park later this month.
Tech Bloc, a local tech sector advocacy organization, will host the “Reboot Rally” from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 20, at Legacy Park across from the new Frost Tower. The event is being billed as a reignition of pre-pandemic life – for those who are ready for it.
“We want to bring the tech community back online and celebrate with an energetic boost, a jump start to the engine, a signal to ourselves and the world that the tech district is fully back open for business,” said Tech Bloc CEO David Heard.
The event will also feature the unveiling of a new, County-funded website Heard said will highlight the tech district’s venues and market it in economic development efforts. A promotion for the event says the web resource will “document and share the exciting story of our growing tech district with the world for years to come.”
The tech district, a cluster of tech ventures around Houston Street downtown, is home to enterprises such as Geekdom and CodeUp, as well as new arrivals like SkipCart, a delivery app. San Antonio developers Weston Urban and GrayStreet Partners are luring tech companies with high-speed internet, common lounges, ping-pong tables, and bicycle storage rooms.
Heard said the event is not intended to signal that the pandemic is over. “We’re not qualified to do that,” he said. “We’re trying to provide an opportunity for reconnection for those that are ready and comfortable to do that.”
The event is mask-optional, and social distancing will not be enforced. Centro San Antonio is set to provide overflow facilities for crowds to expand into if they become too numerous.
Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger, who oversees the city’s pandemic response, said the outdoor event appears “fairly low-risk, as long as people are smart.”
More than 58% of Bexar County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the county is on track to have vaccinated 60% of the 16-and-older population by next month.
On Monday, the weekly coronavirus positivity rate jumped by 0.7 percentage points to 2.6% but remains at a level that public health experts consider low.
With more than 1,000 people registered for the rally, Heard said the brisk pace of reservations means that the event is nearing capacity. He declined to share an exact figure for the number of reservations that would be available, as he said it could change. Tickets are free, but reservations must be made in advance.
The “Reboot Rally” will be Tech Bloc’s eighth rally since its founding in May 2015. The trade association’s initial event, which helped build support for rideshare companies Uber and Lyft to return to San Antonio, drew more than 900 attendees.
“At the time we were just trying to organize the idea that tech should have a single voice,” Heard said.
Since then, rallies have been held on an annual basis attracting anywhere from 1,200 to 1,400 people at each. Headlining speakers have included Robert Hammond, the founder of the High Line in New York City, and Nolan Bushnell, who founded Atari and was a video gaming industry pioneer. Last year’s event was held online due to the pandemic.
The rally this year does not feature any headlining speaker, but its attractions include free barbecue plates from Pinkerton BBQ.
The event is being sponsored by Weston Urban, Centro San Antonio, USAA, Rackspace Technology, 80/20 Foundation, Alamo Angels, Capital Factory, Codeup, Geekdom, Giles Design Bureau, Jungle Disk, OCI Group, Port San Antonio, San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, Scaleworks, SecureLogix, Texas Research & Technology Foundation, and VelocityTX.