In the 11 years since it was built, Cy-Fair ISD’s Berry Center has gone from an events venue used largely by the school district to a full-fledged community institution.
“Anything they do at the Toyota Center, NRG Stadium or the Hobby Center, we do here,” said Beth Wade, who has served as the center’s executive director since it opened.
The venue was conceptualized and built in 2005 when administrators at CFISD decided to invest in a place where they could host staff-development programs, graduations and other district events. At the time, CFISD was hosting graduations at Reliant Stadium, which cost nearly $80,000 each year and required parents to pay $8 for parking to attend.
Although it is open to a variety of clients, CFISD is considered its priority client in the same way the Houston Texans football team is considered the primary client of NRG Stadium, Wade said. In addition to graduations, the district uses the venue for homecomings, proms, banquets and annual events, including JA Inspire, the CFISD Tech Fest and the Superintendent Fun Run.
The first nondistrict client to host an event at the center was Drum Corps International, which hosted a marching band contest. The group will be back for its 11th year this summer, Wade said.
Other major nondistrict clients include: KSBJ, a Christian radio station that uses the venue for concerts; Texwood Homes, which hosts the annual Cy-Fair Home and Garden Show; and Second Baptist Church, which has rented out the entire venue every Sunday for the past seven years.
Second Baptist, which is opening its own church in late 2016 near Hwy. 290 and the Grand Parkway, plans to stop using the Berry Center at that point.
“We’re going to miss them,” Wade said. “However, having Sundays open again will open up some opportunities for us. We’ve had people reach out to us in the past inquiring about weekend-long events, but we have not been able to accommodate them because we were always fully booked on Sundays. We’ll be able to go back and accommodate some of those requests now.”
During its seven-year stint at the Berry Center, Second Baptist became the second-largest client after the school district. One of the more exceptional elements about the Berry Center—the fact that it has its own in-house sound and lighting equipment—came from an effort to meet the church’s needs, Wade said.
“When they first starting using space here, they had to bring in their own equipment each week and hire people to help set things up and take things down after each service,” Wade said. “We went to the [CFISD] board of trustees with a plan to bring in our own equipment that all of our clients could have access to. That’s one thing we do that no other venue around here does that I’m aware of.”
The district used the Berry Center to host a major statewide wrestling tournament in February and hopes to bring in a regional basketball tournament in 2017. Having a venue like the Berry Center at its disposal was a huge benefit for CFISD in garnering consideration from the University Interscholastic League for these events, Associate Athletic Director Ray Zepeda said. By providing a place to host statewide events, the Berry Center can also be seen as a major economic boost to the area, he said.
“We [had] families from all over the state [who came] to the event,” he said. “We have a lot of people staying at hotels, eating at restaurants and availing themselves to our local businesses.”
Businesses and restaurants along Barker-Cypress Road, where the Berry Center is located, pay close attention to when major events are scheduled, Berry Center Executive Director Brent Buchanan said.
“They know they can expect a lot more business during those weekends,” he said.
However, bringing money into the Cy-Fair community is more of an ancillary benefit on top of the main value the Berry Center offers, Wade said.
“It’s not about the money; it’s about the experience,” she said. “It’s about having a place in our community where parents can take their children to see a play and get them home by bedtime. It’s about giving students the chance to get their prom and homecoming experiences at a place where everything will be taken care of in a professional manner. That’s what we strive to provide.”