SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Empty silence has been the new norm at the Santa Barbara Bowl this fall.
Typically the historic concert venue would be packed with people listening to well-known artists such John Legend and Jason Isbell — who’ve both been rescheduled to perform during the 2021 season.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Santa Barbara Bowl pulled the plug on its entire 2020 season.
“By the time summer came around, we quickly realized that there wasn’t going to be a 2020 concert season,” Santa Barbara Bowl executive director Rick Boller said. “That’s never happened before.”
“Minor disaster financially,” Santa Barbara Bowl chairman Tobe Plough said. “Turning into more and more of a disaster as this virus goes on.”
Making the most out of these difficult days, a large construction project is currently underway at the bowl.
This involves restoring the venue’s left hillside of the venue while also creating a large storage enclosure.
Last year, two minor mudslides damaged the venue weeks before its 2019 season began.
“It has enabled us to do this construction project, which we needed to do,” Plough said. “We couldn’t allow mudslides to come down and wipeout our seating.”
“It’s in a really tight confined area where this is happening,” Santa Barbara Bowl event operations manager Tucker Papac said. Doing shows during this construction project would have been extremely difficult.”
“Hit harder than most by the pandemic, the bowl launched a 2020 Shortfall fundraiser which seeks to raise $612,000 to offset its operational costs.
The bowl is a non-profit, and relies on the events it hosts to pay the bills.
“We’re still actively fundraising,” Papac explained. “So that we can keep this place up to par.”
The 5,000 seat venue has explored the possibility of reopening with limited capacity.
The bowl has also maintained its entire staff in preparation for the magic of its music to eventually resume.
“All of the artists who have been sitting at home, they’re all going to want to go out and tour,” Plough said. “We’re going to get hit by a lot of shows in a very short period of time.”
“When it’s safe to get back, we expect to present a full and robust concert season,” Boller concluded.
The Santa Barbara Bowl hopes to host concerts by the summer of 2021.