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Symphony's Plans for Outdoor Venue Move Ahead

A new bayfront facility for the San Diego Symphony may just be music to SD's ears



    San Diego Symphony
    A rendering of San Diego Symphony's proposed new facility

    San Diego may be getting a new, massive, acoustically optimized outdoor venue -- thanks to the San Diego Symphony.

    The 10,000-person capacity facility would be constructed at the 3.6-acre Embarcadero Marina Park South site the symphony currently uses for its Summer Pops performances under a 66-year lease agreement with the San Diego Unified Port District, the board of which voted Tuesday to move forward with the plans.

    To be sure, there are other approval hurdles to leap -- including the California Coastal Commision's -- but this week's vote was a major stepping-stone to making the venue a reality.

    A mix of artists have performed at symphony hall in recent years, including Wilco and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, and the symphony intends to collaborate with other entertainment groups and artists at the new facility as well, and could also host cultural and music festivals.

    "A lot of cities look now at their cultural profile as a major attraction and major benefit to their citizens," San Diego Symphony CEO Martha Gilmer said. "We want to present a wide range of music there, for sure. There are groups that must be more suited for Sleep Train [Ampitheatre] that we wouldn’t even begin to be looking at, but we would love to invite James Taylor here and have him perform with our orchestra -- [artists and events] who demand the technical support that this stage could give."Rendering of San Diego Symphony's proposed new facility

    An  aggressive timeline would see the $25 million facility -- currently dubbed the San Diego Symphony Bayside Performance Center -- in operation as soon as June 2017, though the symphony faces many challenges aside from regular construction setbacks in meeting that deadline. Before plans are put into effect, the port staff needs to settle on the final lease agreement and conduct an environmental review.

    "We want it to be acoustically excellent and aesthetically stunning," Gilmer told SoundDiego. "It is not a tent. It’s a really sophisticated outdoor venue that will really just hopefully blow our minds. We’re thinking big!"

    The proposed stage -- a smaller version of which was built for the 2012 Olympics in London -- will be the first of its kind in the United States, with the technology to support acoustic sound for nearly 90 yards and offering some 6,000-square-feet of performance and storage space. To help with the proposal, the symphony tapped Oscar-winning sound engineer Shawn Murphy, whose resume includes such credits as the new "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," "Jurassic Park" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," as well as the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

    The proposed plans also include a restaurant/food service area, which could be open year-round, and permanent restrooms (which the site currently lacks) .

    Hannah Lott-Schwartz, a San Diego native, moved back to the area after working the magazine-publishing scene in Boston. Now she’s straight trolling SD for all the music she missed while away. Want to help? Hit her up with just about anything at all over on Twitter, where -- though not always work-appropriate -- she means well.