Tobin Center opens

Old Municipal Auditorium transformed into world-class performing arts center

SAN ANTONIO – A major celebration was held downtown Thursday as city and county officials and hundreds of guests celebrated a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

"It's a time of celebration," said former San Antonio mayor Phil Hardberger. "It was a seven-year job. It wasn't all that easy, but it's done and it's paid for."

Hardberger, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, and Bexar County Performing Arts Foundation Chairman and Founder J. Bruce Bugg, Jr. spearheaded the effort to transform the city's old municipal building into a world-class performing arts venue.

"Today we present to our performing arts groups a wonderful kind of performance hall that is architecturally, aesthetically, and acoustically pitch perfect," said Wolff.

The beauty of the building's interior is rivaled only by its exterior. A metallic veil hangs over the facade of the old municipal building. A 600-seat outdoor space, one of three performance venues at the center, will allow patrons to enjoy music, dance and theater along the banks of the River Walk.

The center is named after San Antonio arts patron and philanthropist Robert Tobin. County voters approved $100 million in bonds in 2008 to pay for the project. The city deeded the building, valued at $41 million, to the county's arts foundation, and private donors pitched in about $50 million. Mayor Ivy Taylor said the money was well spent.

"It's truly a legacy that we will bequeath to our children," said Taylor. "This is the place where they will hear a symphony for the first time, where music, theater and dance will spark their imagination."

While the architecture and acoustics are top-notch, the Tobin Center's greatest strength may be its flexibility. It has three separate venues - the 1,750-seat HEB Performance Hall, the 250-seat Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater and the 600-seat outdoor River Walk Plaza - that can operate simultaneously. The floor of the HEB Performance Hall can be raised for traditional performances or lowered for events and banquets.

With more than 100 acts booked over the next six months, Hardberger said downtown's newest jewel might be its most lively.

"We have put new life in this building," he said. "It'll probably go another 100 years now."

For more information on the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts click here.