A tiff over a parking agreement during Santa Barbara Bowl performances has been on the sidelines all year and took center stage last week. Dating back to the late 1990s, the Bowl has rented out nearby Santa Barbara High School parking lots for approximately $48,000 a year, overseeing parking operations and directing traffic. Concertgoers fork over $10 for a spot, and the Bowl gets the revenue. But now the school wants to take over management and enjoy a bigger slice of the pie.
Late last year, the Bowl was informed that its contract would be terminated in eight months — per the memorandum of understanding — thereby ending the agreement midseason. Caught off guard, Bowl executive director Rick Boller cried foul, and after some back-and-forth with high school principal John Becchio and district administrators, it was decided that the agreement would remain status quo for the rest of the season, which runs April through November. Tunes echo from the outdoor stadium roughly 30 days each year.
Taking over the lots could be a moneymaker for the high school’s athletic programs, said girls basketball coach Andrew Butcher. In fact, the school successfully ran the parking operations for 20 years. “It’s not difficult,” Butcher added. Plus, the school could hire similar security staff, he said. “The riffraff are not paying $10 to park their car,” Butcher added in response to concerns raised that hooliganism in the parking lot would increase without the Bowl’s security.
Boller acknowledged that the schools are in need of funds and said the Bowl has an education outreach program to distribute money to school art programs, setting aside a dollar from each concert ticket purchased. He contended the school’s parking management prior to the current agreement was “inconsistent,” and the Bowl has taken steps to ensure neighbors are happy and trash is picked up the morning after. “Our ultimate goal is to make sure we don’t take a step backward with our patrons,” said Boller. How the dispute will play out remains to be seen. Superintendent David Cash said the district will continue to have conversations with the Bowl about their future relationship.