The Santa Barbara Bowl has received its first face-lift and is now anticipating a full makeover, thanks to millions of dollars dedicated to recent and upcoming renovations.
Phase one of an ongoing process to renovate the Santa Barbara Bowl is now complete, just in time for the next concert season. Project Director Eric Lassen said the improvements increased the amount of usable space from 3,000 to nearly 10,000 square feet. Workers completely overhauled the structure’s original design, and planned the new stage area to allow for large-scale performances, such as operas.
During this first phase of construction, which cost $6 million to complete, Lassen said new kitchen and storage facilities were added, the stage area and dressing rooms were expanded and bathrooms were installed for the first time in the Bowl’s history.
“Considering that we had Port-A-Potties in the past, bathrooms are a 100 percent improvement,” Santa Barbara Bowl Executive Director Patty Clarke said.
Built in 1936, the aging amphitheater has been home to concerts of all types. Until now, the structure received only minor restoration and improvement, leaving the Bowl in desperate need of a makeover.
“The facility was not maintained as well as it should have been,” Lassen said. “It didn’t get the attention that it needed.”
Despite the completed work, improvements to the amphitheater are far from over. Clarke estimates that as many as five more phases in the next five years are necessary before the overall $22 million campaign is complete. The next phase is scheduled to begin in November.
“We wanted to complete the issues that relate to the shows and fix the very serious problems first,” Lassen said. “The first part was our biggest [phase] of the project and that’s what our main focus had been.”
Attention is now focused on the construction scheduled for next month.
“The second phase is the building of the reception area called the Wendy McCaw Terrace,” Clarke said. “This phase is about half the cost of the first at around $3 million.”
The new reception facility – named after the current owner of the Santa Barbara News-Press – and the newly renovated stage area are designed to accommodate various community gatherings.
Future phases will improve the theater’s landscaping and remodel the elevated seating area, among other general modifications. These endeavors are not yet funded, and lack concrete project dates.
Funding may present a problem, Lassen said, as the amphitheater is a county facility that relies largely on the community for its financial support. Money for the project has been generated from grants, membership clubs and donations. One donation made by an anonymous Montecito resident totaled $3.1 million. Future plans for the facility will rely on the same means.
“It’s a treasure to the community,” Lassen said, “And we want it to continue to be the special, charming place it used to be.”