In 1926, when the Municipal Auditorium was built, the population of San Antonio was just over 231,000. Today, the auditorium is a versatile, world-class performing arts facility for the nation’s seventh-largest city. It now seats between 1,738 and 2,100, depending on the seating configuration. In addition to the main venue, the H.E.B Performance Hall, it also boasts a 295-seat studio theatre and outdoor 600-seat performance plaza adjacent to the River Walk, along with a 30-foot-tall video wall.
The old auditorium was originally built to honor military personnel who died during World War I, and was only one part of the larger Veterans Memorial Plaza that later included veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
In 1981, this facility was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Ironically, when this designation was announced, the building had been ravaged by a fire and was unusable for several years. That same year, San Antonio voters approved $9.1 million for restoration. The renovated auditorium was rededicated in 1985.
Twenty-three years later, in 2008, a new effort began with more than $150 million from both public and private funds to turn the Municipal Auditorium into a true state-of-the-art venue. The Tobin Center is named for Robert L.B. Tobin, an art patron and philanthropist, whose generosity to the arts -- and the McNay Art Institute, in particular, in his hometown of San Antonio -- was unparalleled.
Viewing the center today from the street, the iconic domed towers on each side, along with the facade of the Spanish Colonial Revival style of the old auditorium, are highly visible; this makes for an impressive sight. From the River Walk however, the view is totally different. The tall silver articulated metal-screened walls that almost hide the original structure come to life at night, dynamically illuminated with integrated LED lights.
Now you know the history of the Tobin Center, let’s go inside. One of the most fascinating features is the floor transformation. When we visited recently for a performance by the San Antonio Symphony, it was a typical theatre setting. However, as we were looking at the website a few days later, we could see a flat floor set up for a large dining venue. What happened to the seats? How can it go from full seating to flat floor? Ah, we found several YouTube videos on how this is achieved, and we couldn’t believe our eyes. Visit the link with this article, set your device for full screen, sit back, and be amazed.
The H.E.B Perfor-mance Hall, the largest venue within the complex, is so well laid-out that there is not a bad seat in the house. Add state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems and you have the perfect combination. Here is where patrons can enjoy the San Antonio Symphony and a wide array of performances, such as Jeff Foxworthy and “Larry the Cable Guy,” “Ballet Alive,” and Harry Connick Jr.
The San Antonio Symphony offers “rush ticket discounts” to all students, active military, and senior citizens age 65 and over. These tickets are available to purchase starting two hours prior to show time for all H-E-B Pops and Valero Classics concerts. Student Rush tickets are $12; seniors and military Rush tickets are 50 percent off regular ticket prices. These are for unsold seats; large groups may not be able to sit together. For more information, call 210-554-1010.
If you can’t make it to an event, free tours are available for groups of 10 or more, based on schedule availability; call 210-212-0913. It is certainly worth your time to visit this magnificent center.
Harry and Linda Kaye Perez are freelance writers from just down the road from Floresville. Together they share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world. Email them at Harry-Linda411@att.net.
Good to know
Purses and small bags, no larger than 12 inches high, wide, and deep, are permitted. Backpacks are prohibited. An exception will be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection. All bags are subject to search.
Food and beverages are available for purchase at each performance.
Valet parking can be purchased online or $20 cash upon arrival. Self-parking is available in several area parking lots.
Find out more
View the Tobin Center’s amazing floor transformation at www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PnGjacoi5s or enter “Tobin Center Floor Transformation” in an online search.
Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, 100 Auditorium Circle, San Antonio; 210-223-3333; phone sales, 210-223-8624; www.tobincenter.org