The Jerry Garcia Amphitheatre is one of the most spectacular performance venues in San Francisco. The Greek-style theater, with its outstanding acoustics and generous green room facilities, is appropriate for all kinds of musical and dramatic performances. The Amphitheatre is named after Grateful Dead member Jerry Garcia, a native to the local Excelsior District community, and is located within John McLaren Park, San Francisco’s second largest park located in the southeast area of the city. Unlike the city’s more famous Golden Gate Park, which is noted for its horticultural aspects, McLaren Park is a natural park, and is ideal for hikers, bird watchers, and folks simply interested in escaping the noise of urban life without having to leave the city.
The History of the Amphitheater
The Jerry Garcia Amphitheater was created in 1970 when the SF Recreation Department completed construction of a multi-purpose outdoor Greek-style amphitheater. The Amphitheater opened in 1971 and the press reports the amphitheater adds “a new cultural dimension to San Francisco” describing it as providing “excellent acoustics” & seating for 700.
From 1975-77 3rd, 4th, 5th SF Blues Festival was held in the amphitheater until it outgrew the space and moves to the Golden Gate Park Band shell, then Kezar Stadium, then to Fort Mason until its final Blues Festival in 2008.
From 1996-1999 SF Parks and Recreation expended capital funds to install ADA compliant restrooms, seating, parking spaces and pathways at the amphitheater. During the construction project amphitheater lighting and hillside stage electrical panels are removed.
On July 21, 2005 Resolution Number 0507-003 passed by SF Recreation & Park Commission which proclaims the “unnamed Greek style amphitheater in John McLaren Park…shall hereinafter be known as the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater”.
The Official City Dedication of the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater is held on October 29 2005 organized by Friends of McLaren Park, F.A.C.E. supported by District 10 & 11 community members, musicians and artists. Wavy Gravy is the celebration’s Master of Ceremonies, with an Official Proclamation presented by former Mayor (current Lieutenant Governor) Gavin Newsom with entertainment presented by The Jefferson Starship and several Grateful Dead Tribute Bands.
In 2015 McLaren Park Collaborative members voted to set aside 2012 Bond funds to repair the surface in front of the amphitheater stage and install a handrail on the path leading from the stage to the green room.
Following the 2015 Grateful Dead “Fare Thee Well” Tour and SFRPD sponsored live-streaming concert in AT&T Park, the concert sponsor The Madison House donated $25,000 to SF Rec and Park to improve the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater.
In 2016 SFRPD began the “McLaren Park Visioning Process,” starting with a day of family-friendly fun, a Treasure Hunt, designed for participants to discover several special places within the park. Follow-up meetings focused on specific areas of the park, such as vistas, paths and trails, sports courts, the amphitheater and main picnic area. Future plans may include a family triathlon and a soapbox derby.