Since the 1970s, I’ve enjoyed attending Santa Barbara Bowl concerts as often as possible. Its future potential seemed clear to me from the very beginning, so in the mid 1980s, I was pleased to join a group—including Sam Scranton, Patrick Davis, and others—that saw an opportunity and need to upgrade the facilities, expand show offerings, and create a master plan for the venue’s future. I expected to help complete the plan then move on to some other community efforts, but there was always more to do.
After its completion, we formed a Facility Committee, composed of local professionals from the construction and design world and other interested parties, to guide the implementation of our plan. That committee has been meeting every month for the past 20 years.
The first project was to approve the installation of automatic irrigation for the box office lawn. Since then, we have spent more than $30 million dollars creating some very high quality, well designed, and useful performing arts facilities at one of the finest outdoor concert venues in the country.
From the beginning, we wanted to create improvements that were architecturally appropriate for the site, blending into the surrounding hillsides while providing the working space needed for a large variety of shows. We were aided by an architectural team, DesignARC from Santa Barbara, and Handel Architects from New York, who have worked closely with us for years. There was never a strong desire to initiate design around a Spanish Colonial revival style, but rather to embrace the rustic simplicity of the 1936 stone work that existed on the site before the Bowl’s existence. Most all of what we have done starts from that premise; even an early proposal to consider using plastic rocks as a cost-saving measure was met with shocked horror by the Facility Committee.
Two large projects remain to be completed: a food and restroom building tucked into the hillside and a new pedestrian entry and box office off of Milpas Street. We are still working hard to get it right for a bright, long-term future of Bowl concertgoing.