Port San Antonio’s board of directors has selected ASM Global, an operator of sports stadiums and arenas, to run the port’s planned Innovation Center.

The selection comes even though the board has not given final approval to the 120,000-square-foot facility, a combination e-sports arena, concert venue, tech-oriented co-working space, gaming area and tech museum. The center would be situated at General Hudnell and General McMullen drive.

The board this week authorized port officials to negotiate a final contract with ASM Global.

Port President and CEO Jim Perschbach said he was “very confident” the project would become a reality. Hiring ASM Global was necessary, he said, to ensure the center would have a lineup of e-sports events, concerts and other events scheduled when it opens to the public.

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The contract would give ASM Global a percentage of fees for each event, which Perschbach said would drive the company to fill the center’s calendar with bookings.

“Our interests are aligned,” he said.

ASM Global books events at the AT&T Center, when basketball and hockey games are not scheduled.

Perschbach said he expects the board to give final approval to the project within the next several months. He expects construction to start this summer, and the facility to open in July 2021.

The Innovation Center is Perschbach’s grand vision. He wants to take advantage of the growing interest in e-sports and attract tourists and school groups to the 30,000-square-foot museum.

In addition, he wants the facility to serve as a incubator for tech startups and a hub for existing businesses at the 1,900-acre Port San Antonio, the former Kelly AFB.

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Kelly, which housed as many as 25,000 employees during its peak years, closed in 2001. The city created the public-private partnership known as Port San Antonio to replace the lost jobs.

The port leases spaces to large tenants such as Boeing and StandardAero and smaller firms. Combined, the tenants employ about 14,000 people.

Perschbach said the 2,500-seat e-sports arena would feature movable seats and could be turned into a conference center to bring companies together to exchange technology ideas. The co-working area would include fabrication labs for tech companies.

But the question remains — how much will the center cost to build? Perschbach has said under $100 million, but has not been more specific.

Another key question: how it will it be financed? The port likely would use debt financing, which would be paid back by revenue earned from the center.

In November, the board hired American Triple I Partners in a no-bid contract to develop the project. Started a year ago, the firm was founded by former Mayor Henry Cisneros and several partners. Cisneros also was secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton administration.

Cisneros is co-chief investment officer and chairman of the firm. Other principals include former New York Comptroller William Thompson and Gary Hall, the former executive director in JPMorgan Securities’ public finance and investment banking group.

Perschbach said ASM Global was selected in a competitive bidding process.

Under the proposed contract, the port would pay ASM Globally $8,333 per month, which would increase to $12,500 a month once the center opens for business.

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The company also would receive a 10 percent commission on the sale of the center’s naming rights and an annual 5 percent incentive fee for the first $1 million in revenue from events booked. at the facility. That would jump to 10 percent for event in excess of $1 million.

In addition, ASM Global would receive an annual incentive fee, capped at $50,000, for meeting targets for meeting and event organizer satisfaction and cleanliness of the facility.

The agreement also calls for ASM to make a $250,000 capital contribution to the Innovation Center at the conclusion of the fifth operating year.

The company bid on the project because it is unique, combining several elements such as the e-sports arena and the museum, said Chuck Steedman, ASM Global’s executive vice president strategy and business development for ASM Global.

“We don’t see any other venue in America that all these elements together,” he said.

Randy Diamond covers aviation, energy and manufacturing in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read his stories and more local coverage on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | randy.diamond@express-news.net



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