Project leaders share details on planned robotics arena in Cedar Park

The approximately 100,000-square-foot facility would need 20 acres to start. (Rendering courtesy of Gensler Austin)
The approximately 100,000-square-foot facility would need 20 acres to start. (Rendering courtesy of Gensler Austin)

The approximately 100,000-square-foot facility would need 20 acres to start. (Rendering courtesy of Gensler Austin)

Image description
(Rendering courtesy of Gensler Austin)
Image description
(Rendering courtesy of Gensler Austin)
Two men spearheading the project to build a robotics arena in Cedar Park shared additional details Feb. 14 for what they say will be the first facility of its kind in the world.

Elijah May, the co-founder and CEO of Robotters, and Thomas Boes, project architect for Gensler Austin, said Feb. 14 they hope to have a parcel in Cedar Park secured by the end of the year. The initial footprint would be approximately 20 acres, with the capability to expand up to 30 to 50 acres for ancillary businesses and workshops.

Gensler Austin, an architectural and design firm, announced plans Feb. 13 to build a “Topgolf-style” robotics arena in Cedar Park.

City spokesperson Jennie Huerta said Feb. 14 that no paperwork related to the project had been filed with the Cedar Park, so city officials could not comment. However, May said he has spoken with city officials since the initial plans were announced Feb. 13.

“I had a great call with the city yesterday,” May said Feb. 14.

The approximately 100,000-square-foot facility would include a concessions area, three tiers of spectator areas and subterranean “maker spaces” with tools and parts where robots could be repaired and modified.

Individuals would be able to rent one of the bays in the three tiers and have access to robots and drones.

“Think ‘Topgolf meets quidditch,’” said Boes, referring to a golfing and entertainment franchise and a game created in the “Harry Potter” book series.

According to Boes and May, patrons would be able to play with drones at an hourly rate. They can rent a space on one of the levels, order food and drinks, and command drones or robots in the arena, May said.

Both amateurs and individuals with advanced robotic skills would be able to rent the bays, and individuals will be able to bring their own robots.

“If you’re serious about bowling, you bring your own bowling ball. If you’re serious about pool, you bring your own cue,” May said.

According to Gensler Austin, the early design includes:

  • 35,000 square feet for spectator areas on three tiers;

  • 30,000 square feet for a robot/drone arena;

  • 10,000 square feet for mechanical, electrical, IT and other support systems;

  • 6,000 square feet of maker spaces and test labs;

  • 5,000 square feet of multipurpose/conference area;

  • 5,000 square feet for support and administration;

  • 4,000 square feet of classrooms/meeting rooms;

  • 4,000 square feet for a lobby with a tech shop, gift shop, concessions and restrooms;

  • 2,000 square feet for a loading dock;

  • 800-1,000 parking spaces; and

  • areas for self-parking vehicles.

The building will be 200 feet in diameter and 90 feet tall, according to the initial plans.

May said safety features will be in place to protect spectators from careening drones, from more sophisticated systems such as LED tracking and geofencing to something as simple as netting.

“The arena will have decorative measures that promote visibility and provide safety,” Boes said.

Robot collisions and breakdowns are not just expected, but welcome.

“We say, ‘fly it, drive it, break it, fix it,’” May said. “You’re supposed to go in and break things. The whole idea is you come in and play with stuff. We’ll have all the parts downstairs and that 5-year-old can fix it the way it is or make an improvement.”

Boes and May said at this point, the arena would be a private, for-profit operation—but they both want to ensure price would not be a hindrance to young robotters or robotics teams.

“We’re not going to turn away a robotics team because they can’t afford it,” May said.

May said the idea of a science and education park was first proposed to Cedar Park City Council in 2010, but the project stalled.

“I’m impatient at this point. Every robotics competition is a missed opportunity,” he said. “We hope to choose a site in 2020; then we can start doing that fundraising in earnest.”

Boes expects the design to evolve.

I’m excited about generative design,” said Boes, referring to an evolutionary approach to design. “We’ll put these initial ideas out, but we also know as we learn more and as it develops, we’re going to rework it and rework it.

“We’re excited to see how it moves along generatively.”

RELATED: 'Topgolf-style' robotics arena planned for Cedar Park


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