The symphony will work with the Port of San Diego to program 110 days throughout the year. The remainder of the time, the space will continue to function as a public park with revamped basketball courts and exercise areas.
“This is a very unique partnership with the Port. Eighty-five percent of the time this is a public park. People can come and walk around. They can sit and listen to rehearsals. They can watch art being made,” says Gilmer. “Then 15% of the time, we occupy it. Keeping that balance was critical. I think the Port saw this as a real opportunity for activating our coastline and bringing people to the bay that haven’t been down here before.”
For Knight’s performance, the venue was outfitted to welcome 3,500 guests – both seated and spread out on the lawn. The audience, however, extended to passersby who pulled up outside the park gates with blankets and lawn chairs and even the occasional pet. On the water, boats anchored themselves around the shell to take in the show.
The Rady Shell can be configured for up to 10,000 guests and features a nearly 13,000-square-foot open-air dining plaza that can also be utilized for pre-event functions. Gilmer says the Symphony hopes to use the park’s various spaces for free entertainment for locals, multi-stage festivals and more.
“We just want to make sure that art is accessible,” says Gilmer. “As I say, the creative is not exclusive. It is inclusive. That’s really a very important part of the mission.”
The Rady Shell’s upcoming schedule includes Nas with The San Diego Symphony, comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, Smokey Robinson, Brian Wilson, Gary Clark Jr. and plenty of performances from the Orchestra. The Orchestra will also perform alongside popular films like The Goonies and Rocketman.
“I think artists are going to absolutely want to make sure this is part of their tours going forward, because it is a brand-new, state-of-the-art venue,” says Gilmer. “When you’re standing on that stage and you’re looking at this view it is an inspiring place to be.”