Established as a City park in 1899, Plaza del Mar was a favorite location for strolling and outdoor gatherings. A designated City Landmark, the Plaza del Mar Band Shell was constructed in 1912 to provide a venue for public concerts. Five thousand people attended the opening concert on May 4, 1919, which featured a 22-piece municipal band. A popular venue for many decades, the Band Shell hosted concerts, dramatic performances, recitals and speeches. Designed in the Mission Revival style by Winsor Soule, it is the only remnant of the popular entertainment structures which once graced historic Plaza del Mar.
Although Plaza del Mar continues to host community events the use of the Band Shell declined and the building fell into disrepair. In recent years, community interest in the Band Shell for concerts, dances, rallies and other events has grown. The Coronavirus Pandemic further demonstrated that public parks, such as Plaza del Mar, are vital to community health and spurred community interest in the revival of outdoor concert venues.
An assessment of the building condition in October 2020 revealed that in addition to facade repairs, needed structural repairs include the building frame, roof, and the wood stage. Electrical upgrades as well as the restoration of the original lighting will be important to support a range of uses. Lastly, the renovation will achieve accessibility improvements to the building as well as to the stage.
Renovation of the Band Shell will revitalize Plaza del Mar for music, drama, dance and celebratory events. As a public park, the City provides low-cost access for non-profit organizations that serve a broad cross section of the community.
The Parks and Recreation Community (PARC) Foundation is partnered with the Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department to secure the funds needed to achieve Band Shell renovation. In addition, the Santa Barbara Folk Orchestra and other organizations are actively interested in fostering the return of the outdoor venue. In March 2021, the City committed $90,000 funds for the preparation of architectural and structural plans for repairs.
Based on the building renovation needs and the accessibility improvements required for public use, preliminary project construction costs are $500,000.