- Journal of SD History
Framework taking shape for Balboa Park Centennial
written by: James Chute, UT San Diego
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
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The framework for the 2015 celebration of the Balboa Park Centennial - now called EDGE2015 - is coming into focus.
The centennial committee has finalized a set of 10 “conceptual programming initiatives” that it is presenting to potential donors with the goal of creating “an awe-inspiring, yearlong event that celebrates our past 100 years and illuminates the next 100,” according to the committee’s most recent planning document.
“What we’ve tried to do is try to consolidate a lot of the talking, thinking and planning that has really accelerated over the last year,” said Mike McDowell, chief executive officer of the centennial event.
“This gives us a road map to begin talking to sponsors and talking to donors about what our programming thoughts are.”
The core of the celebration, which has been under discussion for years, will be the separately funded exhibitions and presentations that are being planned by each of Balboa Park’s more than 25 constituent organizations. The centennital committee has awarded grants totalling $325,000 to 10 park organizations to help plan and facilitate their 2015 presentations, whether a new permanent exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum examining San Diego’s diverse habitats or an exhibit detailing the history of innovation in San Diego at the San Diego History Center.
The broader-based “programming initiatives” — some resembling a cross between a World’s Fair and the Super Bowl’s NFL Experience — will be layered onto those institutional offerings and could use sites outside the park as well as the park’s primary open spaces, potentially the Plaza de Panama and El Prado.
Those 10 initiatives could cost as much as $50 million (including promotional funds) and will depend upon the centennial committee securing multiple underwriters.
“We’d love to see all 10 of them happen, in some way, shape or form, and I think there’s a possibility of that,” McDowell said. “But if for some reason we can’t get (some of them) off the ground ... because the donor base isn’t there, the sponsor base isn’t there, I think we have enough other things that it would still be a meaningful event.”
San Diego Gas & Electric is already considering several sponsorship possibilities, McDowell said, and he expects other corporations to come on board as the celebration’s fundraising efforts gather momentum.
The centennial committee’s operation is now supported by approximately $1 million from private foundations and the city through it’s transient occupancy tax program. The centennial events are expected to be tourist attractions that could have a significant positive economic impact on the city.
“I think 2015 is an opportunity to get a lot of people to the park with a lot of outside events and inside events,” said Michael Hager, executive director of the Natural History Museum and a member of the centennial committee. “It’s going to be an entertainment and educational opportunity for a lot of people.”
Under a provision in the “Penny for the Arts” proposal recently passed by the San Diego City Council to increase arts funding over the next five years, the committee could get an additional $1 million in TOT funds, some of which would likely be used for marketing. Still, the bulk of the committee’s multimillion dollar aspirations will need to be supported through private donors and corporate sponsors.
“My goal now is to add some key people — people who could be project managers, or curators, for some or all of the initiatives,” said McDowell, who indicated that should happen in the next 90 to 120 days. “That’s where the fundraising element comes in: We need to be able to articulate to the sponsors, to the various funders in town, our vision.”