Heart Of Campus Returns To UC Santa Cruz

Oct 10, 2017

A historic amphitheater at UC Santa Cruz will re-open this weekend after being closed for more than ten years.  

It’s called the Quarry Amphitheater because it’s carved into an old limestone quarry. Surrounded by redwoods trees and completely open to the sky, it sits in the heart of campus. So when the amphitheater first opened in the late 1960s, it naturally served as a central gathering place for some defining moments on campus.

During the peak of the farm workers rights’ movement, Cesar Chavez recruited students here who wanted to help the cause. It was the classroom for an unconventional nude psychology class. And after September 11th, students came here to create a memorial.

As the events continued, maintenance did not.  In 2006, the school closed the Quarry Amphitheater because it was unsafe. Alumna Donna Mekis said it was hard to watch it fall into disrepair.   

“There were nails coming up through the seats. The wood was bent and warped from rain and weather,” says Mekis.

Mekis is also past president of UCSC’s alumni organization. She helped raise the $8-million needed to repair the amphitheater. Students also helped pay for the repairs through fees.

This week, construction workers are smoothing the concrete on the stage. It’s one of the last steps in this renovation. The amphitheater’s original architectural vision remains intact. The asymmetrical seats are still long wooden benches that form a tiered semi-circle around the stage. But now, there’s wifi and it is ADA accessible.

The Quarry reopens Saturday with a concert for students. Fourth year student Suini Torres says it will be nice seeing everyone together. With 10 colleges at UCSC, she says it can be hard to meet people outside of your major or dorm.

“It’s very divided and so it’s important that we have a central meeting place,” Torres says.  

The newly restored amphitheater can host up to 2,000 people. That's about 400 more than it previously could.