SUNKEN TREASURE

San Antonio’s Sunken Garden Theater set for $61 million transformation into world-class venue

San Antonio’s Sunken Garden Theater set for $61 million transformation

Sunken Garden Theater rendering
The renovations will yield a top-notch venue for the city. Courtesy of OTJ Architects
Sunken Garden Theater rendering
Upgrades will be made to seating, including the addition of nearly 6,000 covered seats. Courtesy of OTJ Architects
Sunken Garden Theater rendering
Landscaping will be redesigned as part of the project. Courtesy of OTJ Architects
Sunken Garden Theater rendering
Every seat in the house will offer great views of the stage. Courtesy of OTJ Architects
Sunken Garden Theater rendering
Concession areas and restrooms will be added. Courtesy of OTJ Architects
Sunken Garden Theater rendering
The lawn will be the perfect spot to stretch out and enjoy a show. Courtesy of OTJ Architects
Sunken Garden Theater rendering
Sunken Garden Theater rendering
Sunken Garden Theater rendering
Sunken Garden Theater rendering
Sunken Garden Theater rendering
Sunken Garden Theater rendering

San Antonio’s historic open-air amphitheater is getting a multimillion-dollar makeover that will position the space as a world-class outdoor performing arts venue.

The Brackenridge Park Conservancy announced Friday, September 17 that in collaboration with the City of San Antonio and Bexar County, it has plans to redevelop the Sunken Garden Theater, originally constructed in 1930 at the 343-acre Brackenridge Park, with renovations focused on preservation and modern upgrades.

Aiming to incorporate historically sensitive design with top-tier amenities for artists and patrons, the conservancy plans to include seating for 7,000, with the majority being fixed stadium seating under a timber-frame roof. There will also be a grass berm for seating, an enclosed stage house, an expanded venue entrance, restored historic waterfall features, and more.  

The theater’s facelift is needed, according to the conservancy, as the one-of-a-kind city facility has been deteriorating in recent decades. The renovations, which are expected to cost approximately $61.7 million, will be financed through a combination of public and private sources, philanthropic funds, tax-credit equity, and venue operations.

Upon completion, the top-of-the-line outdoor music venue will provide diverse entertainment offerings and help support the local hospitality industry, to the tune of $239 million in economic impact within the first 10 years, the conservancy notes.

Additionally, the project is estimated to create 969 full-time-equivalent construction jobs and the theater itself will create approximately 171 full-time-equivalent positions.
 
The list of planned renovations to the Sunken Garden Theater include:

  • Preservation of the historic amphitheater.
  • Upgrading seating, with more than 5,900 reserved seats and over 1,100 lawn seats.
  • Adding VIP seating and a lounge.
  • Creating permanent restrooms, concessions, and merchandising areas.
  • Redesigning the landscaping.
  • Expanding the venue entrance.
  • Adding an enclosed stage house with improved power facilities.
  • Adding new dressing rooms for performers, as well as upgrading backstage support facilities.
  • Implementing professional lighting and sound systems.
  • Improving loading dock and bus parking.
  • Providing elevator and ramp access to lawn seating areas.
  • Adding a professional box office.

The upgrades to the Sunken Garden Theater aren’t the only plans the conservancy has for the century-old Brackenridge Park. The group recently released its Cultural Landscape Report, which digs into how to restore the park — which also houses the Japanese Tea Garden, the San Antonio Zoo, picnic areas, riverfront areas, and ball fields — to its prime. The conservancy will host a series of public meetings to gather input about the park plans. 

Likewise, public meetings to discuss the future of the Sunken Garden Theater will begin taking place in the coming months.

“The Brackenridge Park Conservancy believes the time is right for the reactivation of the historic amphitheater,” says Joe Calvert, chair of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy board. “The community has the opportunity to preserve the classical theater nestled into the old quarry before it deteriorates further, and create a venue for all of us to enjoy — from community events to concerts and more.”

For more information about the Sunken Garden Theater renovation and Brackenridge Park, visit the Brackenridge Park Conservancy website.