The Santa Barbara Bowl is a natural outdoor performing arts venue located in beautiful Santa Barbara, California. It is owned by Santa Barbara County and operated by the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation, a non-profit tax-exempt organization run by community volunteers. Honorary board members include actor Jeff Bridges and musicians Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Michael McDonald and Bonnie Raitt. Actor and humorist Will Rogers passed away during the design phase of the Bowl, and it would have been named the Will Rogers Memorial Bowl were it not for the objections of his estate.

While dwarfed by its world-famous cousin, the Hollywood Bowl in nearby Los Angeles (which seats nearly 18,000 people), the Santa Barbara Bowl is still the largest outdoor amphitheater in Santa Barbara County, with a flexible seating capacity of over 4,500. Because of its modest size and the carefully maintained landscape of the canyon in which it resides, it retains an intimate ambiance and acoustical quality that is unique to venues of its type. It is located within six blocks of downtown State Street, near Santa Barbara High School, at the terminal junction of Milpas and Anapamu streets.

The Bowl was originally designed to serve as host for a hundred caballeros on horseback during Santa Barbara's annual Old Spanish Days fiesta, a cultural celebration held in late summer. The land was purchased by the county from Frank Selover for $4,000 during the Great Depression, and the Bowl was built with $77,000 of federal funds from FDR's Works Project Administration in 1936. Conceived by Sam Stanwood, the original construction included a wooden, electrified revolving stage (very state of the art at that time) which incorporated more than 6,000 linear feet of stonework laid by Italian and Mexican stonemasons. Unfortunately, the stage was destroyed by El Niño floods during the winter of 1939, and was replaced by a concrete stage which stood for nearly sixty years. In 2001, this stage was demolished and a new stage structure, including dressing rooms, office areas and public restrooms, was erected using the CalTrans freeway overpass specifications for earthquake resistance. Today's Santa Barbara Bowl is among the most modern performing arts facilities in the nation.

Renovations to the Bowl are ongoing, and future planned improvements include a permanent pavilion to house an array of musical entertainment. The Bowl Foundation also supports a community outreach program dedicated to promoting perfoming arts education for area students, and has sponsored classes for local high schools presented by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Arturo Sandoval, and numerous others. The Santa Barbara Bowl continues to thrive as a remarkable historical and cultural landmark on California's Central Coast. I consider it to be a truly breathtaking natural outdoor venue for enjoying live music under the stars.

1122 N. Milpas Street
Santa Barbara, California 93103
Tel. (805) 962-7411

Source information:
The Santa Barbara News-Press archives

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