San Diego Business Journal

Scaled-Down Balboa Park Centennial Celebration Begins to Take Shape

By Mike Allen Monday, March 31, 2014

Expect a scaled down but community-oriented celebration of Balboa Park’s centennial, starting on the December Nights event this year and finishing during that same event in 2015, announced Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Council President Todd Gloria.

“The 2015 celebration is going to be about getting San Diegans to fall in love with Balboa park all over again and making park improvements that will last for generations to come,” Faulconer said.

The city of San Diego assumed planning for the commemoration of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition after the nonprofit organization formed for that task in 2011 disbanded earlier in March following its failure to secure much private financial support. It received about $3 million, mainly from the city, to attempt its task.

Initially, Balboa Park Centennial Inc. planned an extravagant series of events at the park that would cost between $30 million and $40 million.

The new plan is to have four signature events at the park, bookended by the December Nights events, with two other events in the spring and fall. The events will be managed by the Balboa Park Conservancy, a nonprofit entity formed in 2006, which raises money for various park projects, and manages December Nights.

The series of events got a boost from San Diego Gas & Electric, which agreed to install decorative, energy-efficient lighting in the park’s core area. Other upgrades planned include expanding and enhancing the park’s landscaping, and higher quality food options, officials said.

While no definitive budget for the centennial was released, Faulconer said the city plans to work with the San Diego Tourism Marketing District on a strategic marketing plan to promote the events in nearby regional markets. TMD has set aside $2 million for this effort.

The city and conservancy will also collaborate with the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, a coalition of all the park’s museums and other tenants, to highlight more than 1,000 programs, exhibitions and events that happen at the park annually.

While it disbanded in March, BPCI continues to wind down its operations and hand over all its documents to the city. Heading up that activity is Gerry Braun, a former aide to Mayor Jerry Sanders, who now holds the title of transition director.