Historic Roosevelt Bowl in San Bernardino gets $1.4 million for renovations – San Bernardino Sun

Approximately 70 miles east of the famous Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles is an outdoor performance venue similarly steeped in history and identical in shape, if not capacity.

The Roosevelt Bowl in northeast San Bernardino was built in 1934 as part of the Federal Work Progress Administration, the ambitious employment and infrastructure initiative created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression.

More than 3,000 attended the $26,000 amphitheater’s grand opening.

The bronze plaque unveiled nearly nine decades ago by then-Mayor Ormonde W. Seccombe still stares out from above the entrance to the modest backstage quarters.

Names of San Bernardino past welcome performers and spectators inside.

Neglected for at least a decade due to financial constraints stemming from the five years the former All-America City was bankrupt, Roosevelt Bowl at Perris Hill Park ultimately became a haven for transients who found ways to tap into its electrical and water systems.

A stunned parks Director Lydie Gutfeld managed three words last year upon seeing the place for the first time:

What is this?

Stately oaks surround Roosevelt Bowl to shade the rows and rows of bleachers residents packed once upon a time for live performances, civic events and graduations.

A picturesque view of the San Bernardino Mountains is available to all.

Stonework from the annals of the Great Depression retains the hillside that peaks into the bowl from the rear.

“You can’t have a facility like this,” Gutfeld said this week, “and not use it.”

San Bernardino leaders committed $600,000 last year to renovating Roosevelt Bowl, money that went toward removing piles of trash and debris beneath the bleachers; cleaning and securing the backstage commons; repairing fencing around the perimeter; and fixing electrical issues.

On Monday, Jan. 23, Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-San Bernardino, announced an additional $1.4 million in federal funding to finish the job.

“This place is already a goldmine,” Gutfeld said. “With a presence here, we can show San Bernardino it’s OK to have access to these kind of things here.”

Forty years have passed since Roosevelt Bowl last saw major improvements.

In 1981, the old wood-backed benches seen in vintage photos were replaced with aluminum seating. A year later, a new concrete stage replaced the original wood one. Restrooms and a concessions building were built just outside the venue in 1983, and since then, the Highland Avenue amphitheater has remained as is.

The federal dollars will cover the costs of a new roof on the main building, as well as external renovations to the restrooms and concessions stand. In addition to assorted concrete and electrical work, Roosevelt Bowl will be upgraded to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The walkway access trail is expected to be restored, and upgrades to the lighting and sound systems are planned.

Lastly, landscaping and irrigation will be rehabilitated.

“We want this to be a place where people come and stay,” Gutfeld said.

Renovations are expected to take approximately one year to complete, but as she did last year, Gutfeld plans to schedule a summer concert series at the 1,800-seat venue in June.

Residents of the 2nd Ward have waited years for this kind of investment in their area, Councilmember Sandra Ibarra said Monday, and the work at Roosevelt Bowl is just the beginning.

“The entire city deserves this,” Mayor Helen Tran said. “Residents deserve a safe park, a safe place, a safe event venue where they can really be engaged in the community and show up and do things that make them feel proud of San Bernardino.

“Community centers, parks, they’re vital to our community and for our families and children to flourish.”

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