Rebuilding the Quarry

Iconic student space to be renovated after 10-year closure

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Illustration by Kelly Leung
Illustration by Kelly Leung

Correction: In the December 1 article “Rebuilding the Quarry”, provost Ben Leeds Carson was referred to as the Student Fee Advisory Committee (SFAC) advisor. Lucy Rojas is actually the current SFAC advisor. Carson was not on the advisory committee at the time the renovation was approved. Carson is also quoted saying that the initial funding request SFAC received for the Quarry renovation was $3 million dollars. SFAC actually received an initial funding request for $4 million for the Quarry Amphitheatre renovation and approved $6.3 million.

Once used as the iconic gathering place of students for decades — either to enjoy live performances like the Shakespeare Santa Cruz Festival Glen or as the heart of demonstrations like the Vietnam protests in the 1960s — UC Santa Cruz’s Quarry Amphitheater will reopen next fall.

The amphitheater, which will begin construction on Dec. 12, closed in 2006 after falling into disrepair, including deteriorated stairs and pathways that did not meet building codes. UCSC Executive Vice Chancellor and Campus Provost (EVC/CP) Alison Galloway named the Quarry Amphitheater renovation as her top priority before stepping down from her position at the end of the month.

“The reason I like the Quarry is because of the connectivity and the community,” Galloway said. “One of the things that we find is a big factor in retention of students is ‘do they feel like they’re involved in this community?’”

A survey conducted by the office of the dean of students, which sampled over 1,500 students, indicated 93 percent of students knew where the amphitheater was and 46 percent reported going at least “occasionally.”

One of the studies listed “design drivers” of the project are “income generating opportunities.” Potential opportunities include renting the space out for charity events, corporate retreats, outdoor concerts, weddings and festivals of various kinds. The project also proposes sponsored signage, similar to the ad banners you would see in a stadium, as a source of revenue along with food trucks and other concession or merchandise stands.

“Part of what you have to think about is what we can fundraise for,” Galloway said. “Typically disrepaired buildings aren’t something people will give money to.”

Phase one of the project is estimated to cost $7.4 million, and it primarily involves restoring the amphitheater itself and renovating parts of Quarry Plaza. This entails bringing the space in line with building codes and safety standards, adding new stairways and handrails and expanding the seating capacity of the theater. According to the feasibility study more than 99 percent of all existing campus programs could be held at the amphitheater’s current capacity. The expansion of seating aims to “attract revenue-generating concert promoters.”

The Student Fee Advisory Committee (SFAC) approved the use of $6.3 million in student fees to fund the first phase of the project in 2014, despite student fees typically not being used to fund large scale construction projects.

“There has been some tension in past years between a couple of different ways that student fees ought to be used,” said Kresge Provost Ben Leeds Carson. “In general, campuswide and systemwide, Student Fee Advisory Committees hold to a principal that student fees should not be spent on infrastructure. Student fees should be spent for one-time funds that impact student life in an immediate way.”

The SFAC ultimately approved funding phase one of the project due to strong student interest and positive community impact.

Carson also said the initial request from the EVC’s office was only $3 million, compared to the $6.3 million received. The additional funds were granted to reduce the possibility of the project increasing in cost as a result of delays.

Phase two, currently estimated to start in 2021, will be funded by private donations from outside sources, not student fees. This half of the project will involve improvements to the stage, a lobby-style seating area, the construction of a 14-foot-wide pedestrian bridge as well as an elevator to provide access to the bridge. These phase two changes are estimated to cost around $10.7 million.

The SFAC members took both phases of the proposal to their respective College Senates. Student Union Assembly Vice President of Internal Affairs Grace Shefcik, who was a voting member of the SFAC at the time of the decision, said in an email that students were in favor of reopening the amphitheater but felt the second phase of construction was too extravagant and unnecessary.

UCSC EVC/CP Alison Galloway said that the renovation would provide students with something she felt campus sorely lacked, a hub for the community to congregate.

“We wanted to give the students a place where they controlled it and they could feel welcome, and they could use that to build community.”

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Sean D. Ross is editor for the City News desk at City on a Hill Press. Previously, Sean served as an editor for the Investigative News desk and as a reporter for the Campus, City and Sports desks over the past two years. Before coming to UC Santa Cruz, he was News Editor for the Diablo Valley College Inquirer, contributing to the Inquirer earning the Journalism Association of Community Colleges’ “General Excellence” award at the 2016 Northern California Conference. For his coverage of California fires in the fall of 2017, Sean was awarded third prize in the California College Media Association’s Breaking News competition. Sean is pursuing a career in law, and has interned for renowned California attorney James M. Wagstaffe. Besides casually browsing LexisNexis, Sean enjoys board games of all stripes, competitive Magic: the Gathering, playing the french horn, automotive racing and the literary stylings of Neil Gaiman.