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Save the Balboa

July 27, 1986

Several months ago I was gratified to learn that the Balboa Theatre would not feel the weight and wrath of the wrecker's ball. However, I then read that this wonderful house was to be bastardized into an art center! A building with 1,474 seats, an 80-foot stage, full orchestra pit, dressing rooms for more than 50 performers and an elevator for transferring sets from the basement area to the stage.

What folly! Why on earth take a historic theater and, with tons of concrete to form a level floor, transform it into an ordinary building? Downtown San Diego is over-supplied with regular buildings that would be far more easily converted into an art center than the Balboa.

At this time there are several groups who would like to use this theater facility, including Starlight (I understand their president has petitioned for its use, but been rejected), chamber music groups, Gilbert & Sullivan, and no doubt road shows that now have no place to play--necessitating a trip to Los Angeles for those who want to see such major productions as "Cats," "Nicholas Nickelby," The Dance Theater of Harlem, etc. San Diego has never had a decent facility to attract national tours. The Civic Center was booked solid for years before it even opened its doors, and even with the symphony in its own house, there are still few good dates available at the Civic Center.

It was unfortunate that the Old Globe rejected use of the Balboa, and that this fine old theater had been used as a movie theater in its last days of activity. This only reinforced the idea of the Horton Plaza development people that the Balboa should not remain a theater, since it could be considered in competition with the theater complex there. It also laid the groundwork that turned future use of the Balboa into a political issue, always unfair, especially in the artistic world where all of the arts should attempt to work together, since they usually have an uphill battle in convincing the general public of their worth.

I am aware that renovation of the Balboa would be expensive. However, converting it to an art center would cost even more and would destroy something of intrinsic value that can never be replaced at any cost.

I am asking that the San Diego City Council please reconsider its decision on the future use of the Balboa Theatre. Please, please keep it as it is--a beautiful landmark and a treasure, and a theater.


Spring Valley

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