King City’s historic Robert Stanton Theater undergoing upgrades

May 20, 2021

$300,000 of redevelopment funding is being used to upgrade King City High School’s historic Robert Stanton Theater.

Now discussions are underway to secure several million dollars through a bond measure to modernize the theater even further.

The Robert Stanton Theater was originally built in 1939 on the King City High School campus. The National Historic Site held high school and community productions for years until King City hit financial trouble in the 90s.

Brian Walker is the superintendent for the South Monterey County Joint Union High School District. He said when the economy went south, the theater basically got abandoned.

“The story goes that they just chain linked it up and left it,” Walker said. “So it was kind of unattended for a lot of years.”

Walker said members of the community raised money to open it up again and do some minor fixes. He said these updates helped the theater but it’s been in need of bigger improvements for a while.

Walker said it wasn’t until the last several years that the school district was able to secure the redevelopment funding from property taxes and partner with a local non-profit to start replacing things.

He said they’ve been working on the sound system, lighting, curtains, and chairs. But they will likely need several million dollars to modernize the theater with things like ADA compliance. Walker said that will come with challenges.

“Because it's a National Historic Site, you can't really renovate it,” Walker said. “We just can't go in and say ‘Okay we're going to tear out this wall.’ And if you do anything structurally to it, then you have to bring the whole building up to code.”

Because it would be so difficult to renovate the theater, he said they are considering building a separate facility next to it with bathrooms that are accessible and compliant.

Walker said that could happen in the next several years and the school district is talking about passing a potential bond measure to come up with the money for it.

“Everybody’s kind of on the same page,” Walker said. “We’re all recognizing what a jewel [it] is for this community - and so unique - that we’ve got to give it its due.”

Walker said the theater offers a great opportunity for students interested in entertainment and performance.

He said once it’s renovated, the size and location will be perfect for big acts to visit mid-week between shows in bigger areas like San Francisco and Los Angeles.