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Nearly Five Decade Old Central Coast Amphitheater Has Major Upgrades In Works

It’s hosted hundreds of thousands of people over the years for events ranging from musicals and plays, to concerts.  But, the nearly five decade old Solvang Festival Theater has been silent for the last year because of the pandemic.  While the “when” of when the outdoor theater will reopen remains a big cloudy, there are big plans in the works to give it some much needed improvements.

Scott Coe is Executive Director of the Solvang Festival Theater.  Coe says the 700-seat theater needs some major upgrades. 

Age has caught up with its light poles, so the plan is to replace the old wooden structures with modern metal structures.  And, sound has always been an issue.  Plans call for adding an eight foot wall above the top row of the seats, to help block out city noise from distracting from the performances, as well as to help keep the shows from disturbing neighbors.  There are also plans to make the facility easier for those with disabilities to navigate.

The Solvang Planning Commission has already approved the project, and it now needs final city approval to proceed.  That could come in the next few weeks, with work starting in the fall.

Meanwhile, if health conditions permit, PCPA-Pacific Conservatory Theater is hoping to squeeze in a shortened season beginning in July, with two shows.

PCPA Artistic Director Mark Booher says the Solvang Festival Theater is the best bet for the non-profit theater organization to get in some summer productions this year.   Normally, PCPA rotates its shows between the Solvang theater, and the Marion Theater at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria.  That’s where PCPA is based.  But, the idea of indoor performances in the region by this summer isn’t considered to be realistic.

Coe says they are anxious to get the theater back in operation again because besides PCPA, it’s used for a number of community events and fundraisers.

He says the hard thing is that not having it open makes it tough to showcase it, which is important as they try to raise the remaining needed for the renovations.  The theater upgrade project is expected to cost about $4.7 million dollars.  About two-thirds of the money has already been raised.

PCPA, and theater officials have their fingers crossed, and are hoping they can get some events in this summer, so they don’t end up losing two seasons in a row. 

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