San Diego Symphony’s dream comes true

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By DELLE WILLETT | Downtown News

On August 14, 2019, the San Diego Symphony board of directors unanimously voted to begin construction in September on Bayside Performance Park, a highly anticipated, permanent, architecturally and acoustically innovative concert venue.

Said Martha Gilmer, San Diego Symphony CEO, “The San Diego Symphony has dreamed of a permanent bayside venue for many years and we share this historic moment with the Port of San Diego… We are elated to bring this dream to reality and provide the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, and the region, with the most iconic waterfront concert venue on the West Coast.”

With the first concerts scheduled for summer 2020, Bayside Performance Park will provide San Diego with a world-class destination that serves year-round as an event space and landmark waterfront attraction.

Located in the Port of San Diego’s Embarcadero Marina Park South on San Diego Bay, the new upgraded park and venue will feature a permanent, highly innovative, architecturally striking and acoustically superior 13,000-square-foot outdoor stage that will allow the symphony to present a wider variety of musical presentations and enrich the patron experience with improved sightlines, expanded concession area and permanent bathrooms.

As the only outdoor performance space and actively used parkland on the West Coast, Bayside Performance Park will provide San Diego with a world-class destination that serves year-round as an event space and landmark waterfront attraction.

With a seating capacity of up to 10,000, Bayside Performance Park will be part of the overall park at the Embarcadero Marina Park South and the park will be open to the public during non-event hours, or 85% of the year.

Through its flexible seating plan, expanded performance opportunities, and improved park facilities and access, it will offer the community an unparalleled outdoor park and concert experience.

Port of San Diego’s Board of Port Commissioners Chairman Garry Bonelli said, “Bayfront visitors will love the new and improved performance facility, not to mention the improved park and park amenities. It’ll be a destination for people of all ages and interests to enjoy and appreciate.”

Bayside Performance Park is the creation of an international, award-winning team.

Design of the park was developed by Tucker Sadler Architects of San Diego and will be constructed by general contractor Rudolph and Sletten, headquartered in San Carlos.

The conceptual design of the performance stage is by Soundforms of the U.K., with construction by Fabrictecture of Australia.

With acoustic design by Charles Salter Acoustics of San Francisco together with sound designer and consultant Shawn Murphy, of Los Angeles, the acoustically engineered stage features a concert shell designed to complement the San Diego Convention Center sails and surrounding Downtown development and will provide variable electronically enhanced acoustics on stage for a wide variety of events including orchestral performances, chamber music, Broadway musicals and popular artists.

The installation of a Meyer Constellation System (Meyer Sound Labs, Berkeley, Calif.) will provide variable electronically enhanced acoustics on stage for a wide variety of events.

Burton Landscape Architecture Studio, of Cardiff, has plans to use improved and environmentally sustainable landscaping to create a connected experience throughout the Embarcadero Marina Park South. “We focused the site design not only on the performance venue but also on an ethos of continuous public access and engagement with the rest of the park space,” said Matthew McLeod, partner at Burton Studio. “Upon completion, this new outdoor performance venue will truly be San Diego’s answer to the Sydney Opera House: cultural icon and testament to our city’s commitment to the arts.”

The Bayside Performance Park project is being made possible solely through private philanthropy. While fundraising continues, the ability to break ground and begin construction now is possible because of many individuals who have been inspired by what this project will mean to San Diego and the region. Lead contributions include a gift made possible by Una Davis, and gifts from Joan and Irwin Jacobs and Ernest and Evelyn Rady.

Founded in 1910, the San Diego Symphony is the oldest orchestra in California and one of the largest and most significant cultural organizations in San Diego. It performs for more than 250,000 people each season. For over 30 years, it has provided comprehensive learning- and community-engagement programs reaching more than 65,000 students annually and bringing innovative programming to San Diego’s diverse neighborhoods and schools.

In early 2018, the symphony announced the appointment of Rafael Payare as its music director; his first concerts as music director will occur in October 2019. Payare leads the orchestra’s 82 full-time musicians, graduates of the finest and most celebrated music schools in the U.S. and abroad.

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— Delle Willett has been a marketing and public relations professional for over 30 years, with an emphasis on conservation of the environment. She can be reached at