The Ford Bowl was commissioned by the Ford Motor Company for the 1935­-36 California Pacific International Exposition. In its early days the Bowl was home to symphony concerts broadcast via radio across the country, and other events. The name was changed to Starlight Bowl in the 1970s.

The Bowl is probably best known as home to the SD Civic Light Opera Starlight summer musicals most seasons from the late 1950s until 2012. Since the SDCLO folded in 2012, the Bowl has languished and fallen into disrepair.