By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
Less than three months after being dumped by the Los Angeles County Arboretum, the California Philharmonic will shift a quarter-mile east to the Santa Anita Racetrack for its 2012 “Festival on the Green” concert series.
Music Director Victor Vener made the formal announcement to the audience at tonight’s first concert in the current summer season, which will be Cal Phil’s 15th and last in the Arboretum. The Pasadena Pops is scheduled to move into the Arboretum in 2012.
In a preconcert media conference, Vener and racetrack officials said a multi-contract would be signed that would, as Vener termed it, be a partnership, not a tenant relationship as the Cal Phil had with the Arboretum for 15 years. Further details are expected to be announced in a few weeks.
Racetrack officials indicated they would “move dirt” in the infield to create a space specifically designed for the orchestra that would also include BBQ pits for corporate preconcert use and several family-oriented options, including a children’s playground, musical instrument petting zoo and pony rides.
Seating will be similar to the setup at the Arboretum, with tables, chairs and lawn seating, and Vener said he hopes to add large video screens adjacent to the stage for next season’s concerts. Among the Santa Anita amenities Vener cited were substantially increased onsite parking, permanent restrooms, four full-service bars (including liquor) and access to Santa Anita’s current food vendors.
The 2012 season will open June 30 and will continue every two weeks: July 14 and 28 and Aug. 11 and 25. The orchestra also expects to continue its summer series indoors at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
One of America’s most famous racetracks, Santa Anita was opened on Dec. 25, 1934, making it the oldest racetrack in Southern California. With spectacular views of the San Gabriel Mountains (haze and smog permitting), the track has been scene of many memorable racing moments, including Seabiscuit winning the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap (made famous in the movie Seabiscuit). The track, through its tenant, Oak Tree Racing Association, has also hosted five Breeders’ Cups; the last was in 2009. Oak Tree left Santa Anita and held its fall meeting last year at Hollywood Park.
Santa Anita has also had its share of less-memorable occasions. From 1942 to 1944, Santa Anita was used as a Japanese American internment center with up to 17,000 people living in horse stables. In 2009, the company’s Canadian owner, Magna Entertainment, filed for bankruptcy, although racing continued.
(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.