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SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center in Sacramento viewed from across the street , lit from within by purple lights
SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center

Transformative Commitment to Community


City of Sacramento

Project Location

Sacramento, CA


126,500 SF



Opened in 1976, the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center (formerly Sacramento Community Center Theater) was a professional performing arts center in dire need of a transformation. The aging brutalist structure stood closed off from view and separated from the surrounding urban fabric. With aging infrastructure, the building needed a comprehensive modernization to meet the escalating requirements of contemporary performance and to present a new face to the public.

The renovation and expansion opens the building to the surrounding urban fabric and brings Sacramento’s rich culture of trees into the building. A material palette of transparency contrasts with the former façade’s opaque concrete and creates a welcoming presence at the pedestrian level. A lacy scrim providing dappled light reminiscent of a tree canopy surrounds the formal lobby at the south and continues to the north as cover to an outdoor room. Major renovations to the audience chamber and orchestra pit included the installation of the largest electro-acoustic enhancement system in California, transforming an acoustically poor and visually confusing interior space into a warm, inviting, acoustically superior performance space.

Electro-Acoustic Enhancement System

The 1970s theater had reached its limits, relying heavily on curtains and drapes to modify sound for different performances. With inadequate conditions disrupting performances, we needed to design an acoustically superior space to adapt for performances yet to be imagined. Our solution expands adjustability and spreads quality sound throughout the space. There is not a bad seat in the house, acoustically speaking. How was such a feat accomplished?

Acoustic Testing

Popping for Performance

Employing multiple acoustic test methods, such as the tried-and-true balloon pop method and an omni-directional dodecahedron speaker, allows our team to accurately measure reverberation time. Tap into the importance of reverberation time from DLR Group Acoustics Design Leader Jonathan Hopkins during a testing session at SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center:

DLR Group Acoustic Design Leader Jonathan Hopkins

On-Stage Acoustics

In Tune With One Another

We worked directly with the Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera and the Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra for full tuning sessions to get the artists familiar with and comfortable in this new sounding room. Bringing the performers into the space gives them confidence in how the system works and optimizes what they hear during a live event. As Hopkins noted, "A key part of this design is making sure the musicians can hear each other."

Looking down from a theater balcony showing a wood panel theater, red carpeting, and up lighting while a symphony plays on a large black stage

The Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera and the Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra tuning for the first time on the stage.

System Opportunity

Designed for Innovation

From adjusting sound with the simple touch of a button to making setting changes mid-performance, the benefits of the electro-acoustic enhancement system are limitless. The system allows the city of Sacramento to attract a wider range of shows and performances, many that could not be previously accommodated. And its precision through experimentation positions SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center as the premier host for today’s performances as well as new works in the future.

Looking down the isle towards a theater stage where a symphony is playing, surrounded by standalone, operable wood acoustic panels

The Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera and the Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra tuning the audience chamber.

A Unique Sound Signature Only in Sacramento

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