SCHERTZ — When Alicia Haley moved to Schertz in 1977, it embodied the idea of a small town – not a whole lot to do and everybody knew each other.
“When Cibolo Creek would flood, you would meet everybody out there to see the creek rise,” said Haley, 70. “It was like a big party.”
Haley, who said the burg has come a long way since then, offered her recollections as Schertz in September celebrates a milestone — 60 years of incorporation. SchertzQ, a two-day barbecue bash that started Sept. 14, included family entertainment and fireworks.
City fathers say the latest sign of expansion is the announcement by San Marcos-based EVO Entertainment Group to open a comprehensive entertainment complex in early 2019 at the Ranch at Old Wiederstein shopping center on Interstate 35.
Adjacent to the complex will be a 15,000-seat amphitheater expected to bring in big-name music attractions.
In 2000, Schertz had a population of 18,694, city officials said. Today, it boasts about 40,000 denizens, according to 2017 U.S. Census Bureau data, up 26 percent from 2010. When it incorporated in 1958, there were 351 residents. The settlement dates to the 1860s.
Some longtime residents remembering the community’s tranquility actually embrace the rapid changes.
“I like going to the movies and I like going bowling,” said Haley, a local real estate agent. “Everything is going to be at the (EVO Entertainment complex). There are different options as far as things to do for adults and kids.”
“You can’t stop growth, OK?” added Michele Tereletsky, a retired civil service employee who also relocated to Schertz in 1977. “Do I like the idea that it is happening too fast? I’m not too sure on that part, but the younger generation is who you need to take over (Schertz).”
Optimism about Schertz’s expansion is balanced with concerns.
Neighbors said they hope the city hires more police officers to help control the traffic flowing in and out of the entertainment complex.
Councilman Ralph Gutierrez noted the city is working on those requests, with plans to add four police officers this year; six law-enforcement personnel were hired in 2017. Recent and upcoming additions would round out the department’s duty roster to about 60.
Schertz has also devoted resources to improving infrastructure.
Construction is underway on the FM 1103 bridge, with completion early next year. The current two lanes are being expanded to five — with turnarounds — at a cost of $7.2 million.
FM 1518 renovations, from FM 78 to Interstate 10, includes widening from two lanes to four, with added turn lanes, an expansive raised median and bicycle paths. It is scheduled to begin in 2021 at a $45 million expense.
“We are focusing on roads that are not in disarray at this point,” Gutierrez said. “We are looking at roads that are 80 percent good and taking care of those roads before we get to the bad portion.”
Residential and economic development is a long-term process dating back to the 1970s.
Mayor Michael Carpenter said he found an original document from 1973 outlining what Schertz’s makeup would be in 2000.
“That vision was inclusive of a master thoroughfare plan that looks much like it does today, with the expansion of FM 3009 and the existence of Schertz Parkway,” he said. “It anticipated a lot of commercial and industrial build-out on the Garden Ridge side of I-35, and it anticipated residential growth throughout the part of the city between I-35 and FM 78.”
Schertz has held true to its mission of attracting commercial and industrial development, officials said.
Three major distribution and manufacturing giants — Amazon, Sysco and Caterpillar — have established in-town operations the past few years, creating hundreds of jobs.
The city’s close proximity to both San Antonio and Austin makes Schertz an attractive destination for business development, officials said.
“The San Antonio-Austin-I-35 corridor is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country,” Carpenter said, “and because of the corridor and its location, it’s a primary north-south highway. What we have on the other side of Schertz is Interstate 10, which is a primary east-west corridor that runs from Florida to California.”
Despite steady growth, the city maintains its close-knit, small-town roots, according to neighbors. Get-togethers such as Movies and Music in the Park, Schertz Jubilee, SchertzQ, Chillin in the Burbs and Festival of Angels have long served as annual spectacles welcoming locals and visitors alike.
“Those events bring the community closer and more involved in what’s going on in Schertz,” said Gutierrez.
City leaders imagine the region eventually will become landlocked, deterring further growth.
Carpenter predicts Schertz’s population to double by its 120th birthday.
“I think what you’ll find, like in some other cities with 100,000 people, is a city that will have a strong economic base, but have enough people who can sustain some of the best things life has to offer and at the same time, maintain its core culture,” he said. “The things that make Schertz (what it is) will remain in place.”