When it debuted in 1935, the Starlight Bowl was a civic gem.
The 3,500-seat outdoor venue, then known as the Ford Bowl, drew crowds to Balboa Park during the famed California Pacific International Exposition and in decades to come, countless rock concerts and plays.
Now it’s filled with weeds.
The shuttered Starlight, nestled in the heart of Balboa Park between the San Diego Air & Space Museum and the municipal gym, hasn’t hosted a show in at least five years. The facility needs millions of dollars in upgrades and fixes, according to one study. The theater also has lost its steward. The San Diego Civic Light Opera Association, the now-defunct nonprofit that had run the facility since 1946, walked away from its city lease last fall in the wake of a lawsuit alleging multiple contract violations.
What’s left is a dilapidated 80-year-old theater and hopes for the best. None of the major organizations that support Balboa Park has stepped up to formally champion its future or offer a vision for it.
“It’s a big black hole in the park,” said Tomas Herrera-Mishler, who leads the Balboa Park Conservancy. “Something great has to happen there.”
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With all the complaints mentioned about the flight path problems, I would like to bring up the fact that the Old Globe has an open-air theater, and is located in Balboa Park. Presumably the flight path would affect both venues. I have attended quite a few performances in the Old Globe's open-air theater, and while there might be a momentary halt, it doesn't seem to have been that big a deal.
Yes, the Starlight does not have surrounding walls.
Could we hear from someone with experience with acoustics who could explain?
It's the airplanes, stupid! My wife and I had season tickets 25 years ago or so, and it was kinda fun to see and hear the players "freeze" as the landing planes came overhead. But it got old quite rapidly, not only for us but everyone else. It's simply not usable as an outside........Wait a minute! Do you suppose the Chargers...........
Great article on the Starlight Bowl! If anyone is interested in seeing the trailer for my film Starlight Over San Diego, here's a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaoNde3J1Hg.
How about changing its purpose for rock concerts or other loud events that can compete with (or at least not be ruined by) plane noise?
@StaciJackson Saw Joe Zawinul there, don't remember if it was with Weather Report or not, but he sampled the jet noise and worked into his solo. Very amusing.
@StaciJackson I saw a handful of shows there too, some loud bands. Maybe Rage Against the Machine, pretty sure Cypress Hill there and the music didn't drown out the plane noise.
The financial viability of theaters is tenuous, at best. We should remember the renovation and programming of the historic North Park Theatre, which went bankrupt, and its use altered, within a short time thereafter. The City has more vital infrastructure needs that need addressing, before it spends $16 million on the renovation of a theatre. I attended several shows at the Starlight in the early 1990's. The innitial fun of seeing actors stop in mid sentence, or musicians abruptly stop playing, as planes boomed overhead, rapidly gave way to annoyance and then exasperation. Even if the funds could be raised for a renovation - the property is not in a proper location for a theatre. Instead of spending $16 million on a renovation, how about demolishing it and returning the property to open space or, perhaps, a low profile parking garage, since we still have not solved Balboa Park's parking problem?
What a great way to repay for 100 years of service. Oh, by the way, the 100th year anniversary party that costed $10 million was awesome.