The main space at the San Antonio Botanical Garden's Betty Kelso Center contains 3,500 square feet of new meeting space. Photo by Edmond Ortiz

A new event venue has opened at the San Antonio Botanical Garden.

The 3,500-square-foot Betty Kelso Center is designed to host various events. The botanical garden held an open house Wednesday, Aug. 26, for community members to come and check out the new facility.

Named after late philanthropist Betty Stieren Kelso, the center features a spacious lobby, two green rooms, banquet seating for 250, lecture seating for 340, outdoor speakers, a full catering kitchen, and a bridal suite.

The Greehey Lawn at the San Antonio Botanical Garden can be organized for a variety of activities and functions. Photo by Edmond Ortiz

Large windows, sliding glass doors and a patio overlook Greehey Lawn, the Circle Bar Foundation Wisteria Arbor, and John Santikos Fountain of the Ferns. The lawn, too, can host functions.

Construction of the LEED Gold-certified Kelso Center includes sinker cypress material sourced from logs recovered from the bottom of lakes and rivers, and Karst limestone found along Texas rivers.

The new facility is one of the final projects in the botanical garden’s $40 million GROW capital campaign.

Garden Chief Executive Officer Sabina Carr said construction ended right before the coronavirus outbreak hit, so the garden had no choice but to close its doors to the public for a short time and wait to reveal the new events venue.

According to Carr, the facility was tucked into the garden’s existing 38-acre footprint: “The architects (Ten Eyck Landscape Architect and Weddle Gilmore Black Rock Studio) knew how to build a low-impact building, sustainably and friendly.”

The bridal suite at the new Betty Kelso Center at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Photo by Edmond Ortiz

Carr said she and other garden officials wanted to go ahead and unveil the Kelso Center and its amenities to promote it to anyone who can use it for an event in the near future or have it mind for a 2021 booking.

Priscilla Singh, the garden’s rentals and events coordinator, said the Kelso Center is “very functional, whether it be corporate or social.”

“(Opening the center) will help drive revenues for the botanical garden because we need to be self-sustaining,” Carr added.

In order to accommodate public health requirements brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kelso Center offers enough room for safe, socially distanced activities, as well as live-streaming capabilities, botanical garden officials say.


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