Smart Financial Centre pulls off 11 graduations, to add pyro-technics to repertoire
By: Bridget Balch, Houston Chronicle
June 13, 2017
On June 2 and 3, more than 46,000 people cycled through the 6,400-seat Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land as it hosted 11 Fort Bend ISD graduations.
"It was quite a feat," said Randy Bloom, general manager of the Smart Financial Centre.
It was the first time that the high school graduations were held at the new $84 million, 200,000-square-foot entertainment arena. In previous years, the school district held graduations at the Toyota Center in Houston, which has a capacity for over 18,000 people.
When the Smart Financial Centre was in the planning stages, one of the core purposes for building it was to have a venue for major events – specifically graduations, Bloom said.
"It really is fulfilling a core mission," Bloom said.
The logistics of shuttling in thousands of students and their loved ones with just an hour in between most of the graduations was a feat that required months of intensively planning, a heavy law enforcement and traffic control presence and an operations center to be set up in the building.
Bloom said that, though it was hectic, the graduations were pulled off without a hitch.
"Operationally, it was so fulfilling to see everything come off the way that it did," he said. "It was a massive puzzle. Together we were able to figure out how to make it work."
But Fort Bend ISD and the Smart Financial Centre are not taking a break. The first planning meeting for next year's graduation ceremonies was held last week.
Bloom said that next year they will schedule the graduations farther apart to give more wiggle room.
The Smart Financial Centre officially opened in January and has hosted sold-out shows from renowned performers, including Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Matthews, Reba MacEntire and Sting.
The venue will soon be able to attract even more performers after it adds a pyro exhaust system, which will allow the Smart Financial Centre to add pyrotechnic capabilities to its repertoire. The Sugar Land City Council approved that addition, which will cost $260,000 to be paid for out of unbudgeted parking revenues.
"We wanted to make sure we could accommodate just about any show that's out there," Bloom said.
The system will be installed over the summer and Bloom anticipates announcing additional shows in the coming months.