Exploring San DiegoCommunityStories for Change


Iconic San Diego theater to get renovation with $35M State grant

ECC theater to get $35 Million makeover
Iconic San Diego theater to get renovation with $35M State grant
Posted at 3:27 PM, Oct 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-01 21:42:59-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The iconic theater at the San Diego College of Continuing Education is getting a much-needed makeover, thanks to a $35 million state grant.

Inside these concrete walls is a modest but powerful space.

"This theater we're talking about is not just a theater," poet laureate Alyce Smith-Cooper said.

"The iconic Educational Cultural Complex theater has been an invaluable asset in Southeastern San Diego," San Diego City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery-Steppe said. "At the intersection of arts and activism, we have reaped the benefits of change right here on this landmark civil rights campus."

In the 1980s, the commission to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday a federal holiday met at the theater, despite being blacklisted in the 1970s under then-Governor Ronald Reagan.

"King's widow, Coretta Scott King, came to this campus and held a three-day conference in this theater, and throughout the remainder of the late 80s and 90s, it was a 'Who's Who' of African-American arts, culture, and politics that graced their presence on this campus," Chancellor, Carlos O. Turner Cortez, said.

Esteemed guests include Muhammad Ali, Stevie Wonder, Whoopi Goldberg, Jesse Jackson, Maya Angelou, just to name a few.

Over the years, other parts of the college got grants for upgrades. Friday, the theater got its share for a full makeover. It received a check worth $35 million from the state to modernize the interior and create the San Diego Civil Rights History Museum.

"We are recognizing the history and reinvesting into the future," Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins said.

The goal is to upgrade it to become a regional theater and a gathering place for peace and justice.

"Certainly, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'The time is always right to do what is right,' and today, we are here to celebrate doing what's right," Atkins said.

The project is scheduled to be completed in 2024.