Once host to nationally acclaimed acts like Jefferson Starship, Tom Petty, Radiohead and even Democratic senator Robert F. Kennedy, Fresno State’s only outdoor performance venue has now partially been torn down.
The demolition of the Fresno State Amphitheater green room and electrical room was completed Jan. 10, leaving only a concrete stage and roof. Reggie Rush, who was instrumental in the construction of the amphitheater, said the electrical panel wiring that was removed in the demolition was vital for performances on the stage.
“If someone is going to save the place, they don’t have long,” he said. Rush said without the electrical panel, the amphitheater “useless.”
Gary Wilson, senior director of facilities management at Fresno State, said the green room needed renovations and it wasn’t being used by Associated Students, Inc (ASI). In spring of 2013, the former coordinator of the Student Involvement Center, Gary Nelson, said the dressing rooms needed to be torn down because of mold, and the structure itself needed up to $150,000 worth of repairs.
Rush, who was part of a group called College Union Sound System (CUSS), said when he arrived at Fresno State around 1975, the amphitheater wasn’t more than a plywood stage made of two-by-fours.
Rush found state money to make upgrades to the stage so it was handicap accessible. That money ended up paying for most of the stage’s construction.
After that, the amphitheater was constantly in use. One of its main uses was Vintage Days. Dan Waterhouse, a Fresno State alumnus who was on the Vintage Days planning committee, said the opening ceremony was held at the amphitheater, and Vintage Days normally had at least one major performance there during the weekend event each year.
The concerts, like that of Jefferson Starship in 1982, drew crowds of thousands of people.
The stage even hosted Vans Warped Tours in the late 90s and early 2000s, Waterhouse said.
The throngs of people, the loud noise and the lack of parking and proper security created many excuses to quit using the amphitheater, according to Waterhouse and Rush.
ASI President Moses Menchaca said ASI considered using the amphitheater for its pep rally last semester, but couldn’t due the needed repairs.
The future of the amphitheater remains unclear. Wilson said the master plan still calls for the amphitheater, but at the Spring Assembly, Fresno State President Joseph Castro said a new concert hall is in consideration and might affect the amphitheater.
“I’d love to see it stay an outdoor venue and be used as an outdoor performance venue,” Waterhouse said.
Said Castro: “Stay tuned for more details.”