Santa Barbara Bowl Timeline

1930s: Developer George A. Batchelder deeds the 14-acre Quail Canyon to the county. It becomes the future site of what was then called the Will Rogers County Bowl. Senator T.M. Storke secures WPA money to begin construction.

1936: The Bowl opens on schedule for Fiesta with a pageant by Charles Pressley. All 4,500 seats are full, which means one-tenth of the entire Santa Barbara population attended.

1939: World War II begins. The Bowl goes dark for the duration.

1945-60: The Bowl reopens to diminishing crowds. Promoters try a variety of events, including musical plays, but in general, the venue begins to look like a county liability.

1968-1975: The Bowl hosts its first rock concert, Vanilla Fudge. In 1969, Peter, Paul and Mary and Donovan usher in a new era, as part of a season that includes shows from Jerry Garcia, Loggins & Messina, Ravi Shankar, and Bruce Springsteen.

1975: Old Spanish Days officially begins a 15-year lease of the Bowl in the hopes that the concert season will fund Fiesta. With a new Presidente entering every year, the shows become haphazard.

1976: Bob Marley’s legendary first Bowl show. (He’ll play the venue again in 1979.)

1979: Sam Scranton begins work at the Bowl alongside Patrick Davis. Together, they discuss the need for a nonprofit group to run the venue and raise money for improvements. Joni Mitchell records and videotapes her Shadows and Light live album at the Bowl.

1980: The Grand Jury recommends closing the Bowl; the county decides to investigate complaints from neighbors.

1982: New Wave’s annus mirabilis—The Clash, Elvis Costello, The English Beat, The Go-Go’s, The Jam, and the Talking Heads all play.

1987: Bob Dylan’s first show at the Bowl.

1990: County supervisors give power over the Bowl to the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department, ushering in the nonprofit Santa Barbara Foundation alongside promoter Steven Cloud and Moss Jacobs. Sam Scranton becomes general manager.

1994: The Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation negotiates a 45-year lease. In lieu of rent, the Bowl must use ticket sales and fundraising efforts to make an estimated $12 million worth of improvements.

1996: First Annual Mariachi Festival.

2001: Radiohead plays two exclusive Southern California shows.

2003: Pearl Jam performs with Chris Cornell and Jack Johnson.

2004: Despite costing more than twice the initial estimates, the Bowl is renovated to include a new stage, bathrooms, and terrace. Concert season begins with David Bowie and ends with Rod Stewart and the Pixies.

2010: Sam Scranton retires, citing exhaustion and problems with the Bowl’s board. Rick Boller takes over day-to-day operations.

2011: The Bowl celebrates its 75th anniversary on the day of the Mariachi Festival, though no official party is planned. The venue also quietly renegotiates its 45-year lease, setting the new expiration date for 2060.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.