Philanthropy Focus: Quest to reopen the Quarry

Quarry Amphitheater Project moves forward as donors and students seek to revitalize the iconic space


William Hancock (Cowell '79, environmental planning) (photo by Heimo)

While giving his college-bound daughter a tour of UC Santa Cruz, alum William Hancock wanted to show her the Quarry Amphitheater, once known as a great place to attend a lecture, take in a concert, or—during off-hours—sit quietly with a good book. He was shocked to find that the amphitheater was closed in 2006 due to its deteriorated state.

"It's such a beautiful spot, and kind of hidden, and I just felt sad that it had fallen into disrepair,'' said Hancock, managing principal of the California Appellate Law Group in San Francisco. "I remember hearing someone play guitar there. The acoustics were beautiful. My sister acted there in a play by Euripides."

Hancock's gift to UC Santa Cruz kicked off fundraising efforts to renovate the amphitheater. The project is in the early phase, but a recent campus survey got a tremendous response from UC Santa Cruz students. The Student Fee Advisory Committee (SFAC) has been consulted about this project and is poised to advise campus leadership on the use of student services fees and seismic fees to help return the amphitheater to its former glory and once again become a world-class performance space.

Reopening the Quarry Amphitheater is among the priorities of the Campaign for UC Santa Cruz, a $300 million fundraising effort to provide critical resources to the campus.

Hancock and a group of volunteers hope that fellow alumni will participate in the Quarry's revitalization, partnering with students to give new life to the iconic space and provide an essential UC Santa Cruz student experience.

"I've talked with many people who, like Bill Hancock, have fond memories of the Quarry," said Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway. "I hope this will be an appealing project, especially to our alumni."

Built in 1967 at a cost of $82,000, the Quarry has a storied history.

Even before it was finished, UC Santa Cruz's founding chancellor, Dean McHenry, held his 1966 inauguration there. Congresswoman Bella Abzug, author and architect Buckminster Fuller, and political activist Angela Davis have spoken there. The amphitheater once played host to a presidential stump speech by Gov. Jerry Brown and a teach-in featuring former U.S. ambassador Joe Wilson.

The venue has been sorely missed. An eclectic mix of student groups has been searching for places to gather and showcase their talent, said student Max Hufft ('15 Crown, computer engineering), former SFAC voting member and commissioner of academic affairs for SUA. "We're seeing a really high demand for performance and meeting spaces," he said.

Work on the architectural design concepts began in October of this year. Initial construction is anticipated to begin in spring 2016, and would address basic improvements including earthquake safety, accessibility, Wi-Fi, new seating, and lighting in the aisles.

In a future phase(s), the plan proposes installation of a "smart stage," which could be easily reconfigured for different uses; a pedestrian bridge; and a small building for concessions, restrooms, and support space. Timing of construction is dependent on the ongoing fundraising.

The current budget forecast of the Quarry Amphitheater project is $18.1 million.

Those involved in the project visualize a place where students from all 10 colleges can meet and exchange ideas, said Samuel Shaw ('17 politics/history), College Nine Student Union Assembly representative.

"I would really like to see the Quarry become a locus for public life at the school," Shaw said.

To contribute to the Quarry Amphitheater Project, please visit