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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 the 3rd, 4th, 5th SF Blues Festival was held in the amphitheater until it outgrew the space. It then moved to the Golden Gate Park Band shell, then Kezar Stadium, then to Fort Mason until the final Festival in 2008.

From 1996-1999 SF Parks and Recreation (SFRPD) expended capital funds to install ADA compliant restrooms, seating, parking spaces and pathways up to the amphitheater. During the construction project amphitheater lighting and hillside stage electrical panels were removed.

On July 21, 2005 Resolution Number 0507-003 was passed by SF Recreation & Park Commission which proclaimed the “unnamed Greek style amphitheater in John McLaren Park…shall hereinafter be known as the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater”.

The October 29 2005 Official City Dedication of the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater was organized by Friends of McLaren Park (FOMP), Friends and Advocates of Crocker-Amazon and the Excelsior (F.A.C.E.) and supported by District 10 & 11 community members, musicians and artists. The celebration’s Master of Ceremonies was Wavy Gravy, former San Francisco Mayor (current California Governor) Gavin Newsom presented FOMP and F.A.C.E. with an Official Proclamation, and The Jefferson Starship and several Grateful Dead Tribute Bands entertained the crowd.

Voters passed a 2012 Parks Bond which set aside some funding for capital improvements in McLaren Park. In 2015 McLaren Park Collaborative members voted for SFRPD to set aside a small amount of 2012 Bond funds to repair the surface area 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 which SFRPD sponsored as a live-streaming concert in AT&T Ball Park (now Oracle Park), the concert and tour sponsor, The Madison House, donated $25,000 to SFRPD to pay for an improvement in the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater. McLaren Park Collaborative members voted for SFRPD to install the official “Jerry Garcia Amphitheater” park sign outside of the entrance.

In 2016 SFRPD initiated 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.

During 2020 - 2021 the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater will receive structural renovations to allow for more site amenities funded by the 2012 “Parks” Bond. More info about the renovation will be posted here in the coming months.