A view of the stage and structure above at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, which opens Friday. Photo credit: @SDPartnership, via Twitter

Officials on Thursday marked the debut of The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, touted as the West Coast’s first bayside concert venue and park within a park.

The bayfront performance venue in the Port of San Diego’s Embarcadero Marina Park South replaces a temporary venue used for 15 years for the “Bayside Summer Nights” concert series.

The San Diego Symphony’s expanded schedule of outdoor classical concerts, opening Friday, is being programmed by Music Director Rafael Payare. The orchestra will perform, and as in past years, popular music and guest artists will too.

“Today marks an incredible milestone in the journey to making the concept and dream of this iconic venue a reality,” said Martha Gilmer, the symphony’s CEO.

She called The Shell “San Diego Symphony’s gift to the region.”

The venue will operate as a “park within a park,” similar to Chicago’s Millennium Park.

Around two-thirds of the park will be open to the public all of the time, year-round. The portion of the park where the symphony’s venue sits will be open for public use 85% of the year.

For larger gatherings, the public can apply for special event permits just like other port parks on San Diego’s bayfront.

In addition, the symphony’s project includes public improvements throughout the park, including a widened promenade that will remain open during events, basketball courts, a gazebo, lighting and restrooms.

The acoustically engineered stage features a concert shell that is intended to complement the San Diego Convention Center sails and surrounding downtown development.

Additional design components include:

  • 13,000 square feet of performance space,
  • Steps and a patio at the back of the stage for bay views during non-event hours,
  • Flexible seating capacity varying from 2,000 up to 10,000;
  • Terraced seating to provide concert guests unobstructed views from every seat, and
  • Temporary seating that allows for lawns to be open to the public during non-event periods.

In order to ensure that everyone in the community has access to the events, the San Diego Symphony will provide reduced priced tickets to every concert, present four free public events – two of which will take place in the summer months – and provide free educational events and open symphony rehearsals for the public.

“The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park is just the kind of project that invigorates the community, stimulates the economy and becomes part of the fabric of a city’s culture and identity,” said Michael Zucchet, chairman of the port’s board. “Bravo to the Symphony and thank you for bringing a second-to-none experience to San Diego Bay.”

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