San Diego County Arts Editor

For the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, it’s a case of better late than never. In hopes of raising $300,000 to $500,000 toward its year-old $6.5-million campaign for the renovation of its new Symphony Hall (formerly downtown’s Fox Theatre), the orchestra has finally announced the first major fund-raising gala of the campaign.

On July 23, the orchestra will host 350 business and community leaders at a party at Alta Mar, in the community of Del Mar Highlands, to be underwritten for $60,000 by Pardee Construction Co., which is undertaking the Fox renovations. The San Diego Pops orchestra will perform at the party.

The announcement was made Friday at the Fox by campaign chairman and San Diego Padres President Ballard Smith, who admitted that “a lot of the delay (in mounting major fund-raising events) is my fault. After I got involved last year with the symphony campaign, the Padres got very successful, and that has taken up a lot of my time.”

Even so, Smith expressed confidence that the $6.5-million goal will be met by the time the orchestra opens at Symphony Hall in November. He said that $2.7 million has been raised so far--"a tremendous accomplishment since we’re only now going after the corporate community, and hoping to raise a significant amount of the goal that way.”


The restoration of the Fox, a baroque movie palace built in the late 1920s, is in full swing. The interior has been gutted and a complex system of scaffolding is in place for renovators to perform the extensive cleaning, gilding and repainting of the theater’s ornate ceiling, with its hand-carved wooden filigree, chandeliers and frescoes. Smith indicated that local banks are advancing credit for the renovations in progress.

He said the fund-raising strategy has been “to develop a strong foundation of contributions.” To that end, he said, the orchestra’s board of directors has contributed approximately $1.5 million, and many applications for grants and support have gone out to various foundations. Smith also said the City of San Diego has committed $500,000 in support for the project during fiscal year 1986, which begins Monday.

“Now it’s time to go out into the community,” Smith said. He also said that a $3-million contribution to the campaign would suffice to have the hall named in honor of the donor. When it was suggested that Smith’s mother-in-law, Padres owner Joan Kroc, might be a likely $3-million donor, Smith would allow only that Kroc “has been involved in many projects.”

Symphony Assn. President M.B. (Det) Merryman said of the Fox restoration: “We’ve got 121 days before the Nov. 2 opening night, and there’s a tremendous amount of work to be done. But the scaffolding will be out within 30 days, although there’ll still be a lot of spit and polish to do. So far, we’ve done about six weeks of work in taking two inches of dirt off the ceilings, and a lot of work had to be done by hand. Some panels which we thought to be solidly colored were found to be very ornately multi-colored.”


An elegant package seeking financial support for the project is being mailed to community leaders. It includes letters of support from President Reagan and Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), and a breakdown of the capital campaign drive.

The costs are $2.48 million for Symphony Hall renovations; a 20% contingency fund of $431,000 for the renovations; $1.81 million for new furniture, fixtures and equipment; $1 million for an endowment fund and $764,500 for operating capital.