Renovated Copley hall
A rendering of the renovated concert hall. Courtesy San Diego Symphony

The San Diego Symphony announced Wednesday a $125 million project to renovate the nearly century-old Copley Symphony Hall, giving the orchestra a second “word-class” venue in just two years.

Plans call for reconfiguring the stage, adding a choral terrace behind the orchestra, improving the acoustics and installing new seating, state-of-the-art lighting, sound and video equipment.

“After half a dozen years of careful study and planning, we knew this was the moment to take on this important venture. This vital project will preserve and celebrate the extraordinary legacy and architecture of our beloved home, while adding critical new infrastructure and features and enhanced acoustics,” said Martha A. Gilmer, CEO of the symphony.

The renovation of what Gilmer described as a “world-class venue” has already begun and will be completed in the fall of 2023.

She said completion of the Rady Shell last year will allow the symphony to shift the location of some performances during construction. Other performances will take place in a variety of locations around San Diego.

“We have already seen the impact of The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park on our musicians, our audiences, and the people of San Diego,” said Music Director Rafael Payare. “To have the opportunity to improve the beautiful hall we call home, and to improve the musical communication on stage with the musicians, as well as to create a more intimate connection with our audiences, is a fantastic dream.”

Plans call for better sight lines, larger seats and improved aisle access, with total capacity being slightly reduced to around 1,850.

Gilmer said a fund-raising effort is underway to pay for the improvements.

The historic hall on 7th Avenue at A Street opened in 1929 as a Fox Theatre movie palace. It was closed for a period in the 1970s and 80s, but renovated and reopened in 1985.

“Our hall is one of the best preserved of the iconic Fox Theatres,” said Gilmer.

Updated at 11:45 a.m., Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022

Construction in the hall
Construction underway at Copley Symphony Hall. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.