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Opposition organizes over 7,000-person capacity Sunken Garden amphitheater at Brackenridge Park

The Brackenridge Park Conservancy has proposed a 7,000-seat amphitheater in the Sunken Garden at Brackenridge Park.
OTJ Architects
The Brackenridge Park Conservancy has proposed a 7,000-capacity amphitheater in the Sunken Garden at Brackenridge Park.

Organizers of the Save Brackenridge movement have been urging San Antonians to call or email their city council representative to oppose a proposal for a 7,000-person capacity amphitheater in the Sunken Garden at Brackenridge Park.

The city council is deciding this month whether the amphitheater project should be part of a bond package vote in 2022.

The opposition group's websiteclaims the amphitheater will attract up to 7,000 at 60 events a year and alleges that the Brackenridge Park Conservancy has not publicly shared a feasibility study, a business plan, a traffic plan or a safety plan.

The group claims the amphitheater will flood upper Broadway and its side streets and 281 with traffic on event days.

They say it will also cover green space with parking and limit park access and that 3,500 animals will suffer from noise, pollutants and traffic. The San Antonio Zoo is a neighbor of the Sunken Garden.

"We believe it should be a park for all the people of San Antonio. not dominated by those who purchase concert tickets," reads one line from the opposition website.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Arts & Culture News Desk including The Guillermo Nicolas & Jim Foster Art Fund, Patricia Pratchett, and the V.H. McNutt Memorial Foundation.

The Brackenridge Park Conservancy did not respond to interview requests from Texas Public Radio, but did provide us with a statement:

The Brackenridge Park Conservancy, working with the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department, has made the steps to improve the current Sunken Garden Theater to make it a more functional event venue for all the citizens of San Antonio. Since its opening in 1930, nearly 92 years ago, the theater has been a notable venue hosting shows ranging from Shakespeare in the Park to Carlos Santana, Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Phil Collins, Rage Against the Machine, Warp Tour, Bob Marley Fest and many more. In recent years, the wear and tear of the nine decades of use has begun to show and has prevented the theater from reaching its full potential. The proposed renovations would elevate the theater into a top tier facility that would attract world-class acts that are currently passing San Antonio by for shows in other major Texas cities and would provide San Antonians with a convenient entertainment venue, all while maintaining the historic integrity of the theater. The renovations to the Sunken Garden Theater would boost the local economy by creating 1,000+ construction FTE jobs and 170 annual FTE jobs annually from operations, creating an overall estimated economic impact of $239 million within the first 10 years of operation. Theater operations will help fund the priorities of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy’s mission, which is to safeguard the park’s natural, historic, educational and recreational resources for the enjoyment of current and future generations.

While the statement does not directly address the allegations from the opposition's website, the conservancy also sent TPR what it called a Fact Sheet.

It said sound will be mitigated with an enclosed stagehouse. The stage and audience will also be under roof, further compressing sound and a sound absorbing wall will be behind the stage to reduce echo and sound escape. An absorption barrier along Alpine Drive will also mitigate sound.

As far as traffic is concerned, the conservancy said it will engage law enforcement to direct traffic in addition to a having a fully trained staff. It said it would create consistent traffic flow patterns for all events. It also reports the ingress and egress for homeowners on River Road would be protected. There would be event closure of northbound traffic on North St. Mary's. It also said it would also work to eliminate congestion at other intersections where needed.

When it comes to park access, the conservancy said the amphitheater would only occupy three acres of the 349- acre park, so there is plenty of park space for the public to enjoy. It also said Sunken Garden events will be held in the early evening and will not interfere with daytime visitors to the park.

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