The Granada Theatre
In 1997 the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts (SBCPA) began a two-year exploration of potential performing arts center sites in Santa Barbara. After commissioning and reviewing several feasibility studies, the SBCPA board concluded that renovating a downtown theater was a better alternative than building an entirely new performing arts center. The SBCPA board settled on The Granada Theatre as the ideal site for several reasons — its downtown location, excellent natural acoustics, and the opportunity to undertake a restoration rather than the far more expensive creation of a completely new structure.
A Remarkable Restoration
The main goal of The Granada Theatre restoration project was to create an extraordinary performance hall that would meet or exceed the needs of the Santa Barbara region’s performing arts companies for the next century. Input was solicited from Santa Barbara’s premier performing arts companies regarding what technical and structural enhancements of the 85-year-old grande dame structure would be required for each to make The Granada Theatre their permanent home.
The Santa Barbara Symphony required better natural acoustics, a significantly wider proscenium arch, and a stage with a shell and wing space. Opera Santa Barbara required a wider proscenium as well as a much deeper stage. State Street Ballet needed a flexible floor to help protect dancers’ physical well-being. UCSB Arts & Lectures needed all the above plus lighting and sound reinforcement technology consistent with the needs of contemporary touring dance and music attractions. All eight companies were unanimous in their expressed desire for more, and better, dressing rooms.
Based on the feedback from the eight organizations that would become The Granada Theatre’s resident companies the renovation’s scope was intentionally expanded to ensure that all the resident companies’ needs would be met. This required the removal of the existing stage house and the construction of an entirely new building that was then attached to The Granada Theatre’s historic and familiar façade.
Moving in this direction guaranteed that the SBCPA board would create one of the finest performing arts venues on California’s Central Coast — a facility blessed with state-of-the-art updated electrical systems, lighting systems, a new fly system, contemporary audience amenities, large and up-to-date dressing rooms, and new restrooms — all for the benefit of the resident companies and the region’s discerning arts patrons.
In 2005, with work on the project already underway, the SBCPA was informed that a seismic retrofit of the historic site would now be required. Accordingly, costly changes to the original design were made and resulted in a structure which would protect theatergoers in the event of even a major earthquake. The SBCPA board pursued an aggressive effort to complete the project by Spring 2008 for the benefit of the resident companies and the community. The decision to expedite construction, together with a world-wide increase in the cost of raw building materials — particularly structural steel, copper and cement — increased project costs.
Despite these many changes in the project’s scope, the SBCPA Board’s findings that a restoration project would result in an exemplary building at a cost far less than would be the case with new construction proved true.
On April 9th, 2008 the beautifully restored Granada Theatre reopened to the community. The Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts, with the support of many generous individuals and businesses, has ensured that future generations will inherit a beautiful Santa Barbara landmark — a theatre combining the charm of the past with the cutting edge technological features patrons expect.