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Pasadena Pops to move from Descanso to park near Rose Bowl

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After more than a year of financial strife that has resulted in a reduced number of season performances and salary reductions, the Pasadena Symphony Assn. will unveil today the design concept and details of a new outdoor concert venue for the Pasadena Pops, to be located on a lawn adjacent to the Rose Bowl.

The Pops, under the music direction of Rachael Worby, will take up summer residence at the new stage beginning June 19 with a fireworks concert including the splashy William Tell Overture and music from ‘Star Wars.’

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For more than 10 years, Pasadena Pops has performed its summer concerts at Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge, in a rented band shell that is set up for each weekend and then taken down; seating for about 1,700 patrons was provided at tables with white linens where patrons could either picnic or take advantage of a food service.

In an interview Thursday, Pasadena Symphony Assn. chief executive officer Paul Jan Zdunek said that in the new location, the Pops will also be using a rented band shell for its concerts that will be dismantled after each weekend. As at Descanso Gardens, dining tables will be set up around the stage. The Symphony Assn. is in the process of identifying an environmental firm to design the perimeters of an enclosed audience seating area -- also to be removed after each concert.

But the Rose Bowl-adjacent space -- 20 acres owned by the city of Pasadena and used for a variety of events -- is larger than the space available at Descanso Gardens, allowing for seating capacity of 4,000 as a first goal, with the ability to accommodate as many as 10,000 patrons in future seasons, the executive said. The plan also includes creating an area for lawn seating.

Zdunek added that, because of the delicate plant life in Descanso Gardens, the load-in and load-out of equipment and the band shell had to be done by hand, increasing the rental costs. He said that using the new space should cut summer rental costs from $700,000 to $300,000.

At a noon news conference at the Rose Bowl, the Pasadena Symphony Assn. -- which has overseen both the Pasadena Symphony and the Pops since a 2007 merger -- will also announce programming for the 2009-10 concert season, including both Pops concerts and Pasadena Symphony concerts led by longtime Symphony music director Jorge Mester, most performed at Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

Zdunek said that the 2009-10 season for the symphony and the Pops will include six concerts at Pasadena Civic -- including one holiday Pops concert -- and four weekends of concerts for the Pops, the same as last summer. This season, the association announced eight concerts at Civic Auditorium, but several were canceled for budgetary reasons.

Adult ticket prices will range from $25 to $75 for Pasadena Symphony concerts and $25 to $90 for the Pops.

-- Diane Haithman

Related coverage:

Orchestras of Pasadena names new CEO

Pasadena music group sends SOS

Pasadena Orchestras lay off top executives


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