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2015 Balboa Park Centennial Fact Sheet


Monday, Oct. 13, 2014 - NEWS RELEASE

San Diego - Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, an event that drew millions of spectators to Balboa Park and put San Diego on the world map. To commemorate that event, the City of San Diego and several organizations and institutions with ties to Balboa Park have come together to ELEVATE, CELEBRATE and PROMOTE Balboa Park in 2015 and ensure it remains a treasure for all San Diegans for the next 100 years.

The 2015 Balboa Park Centennial is designed to rekindle a local love of Balboa Park among San Diegans. It will ELEVATE Balboa Park with significant improvements that ensure it remains San Diego's crown jewel for generations to come. It will CELEBRATE Balboa Park with signature events, special exhibits and other unique programming throughout the year. And it will PROMOTE Balboa Park with a long-term, strategic marketing plan that will establish it as a premiere cultural destination.

Highlights include a Centennial concert on New Year's Eve, free WiFi throughout the park, a spring series highlighting Balboa Park's gardens and horticultural history, nearly 300 energy efficiency upgrades including new colorful LED lights along El Prado, new food and beverage concessions, upgrades to the Japanese Friendship Garden and other historic facilities, and the grand reopening of the California Tower for the first time in 80 years, offering unparalleled panoramic views of San Diego.

The following sections detail what the City of San Diego and other organizations have done or plan to do to ELEVATE, CELEBRATE and PROMOTE Balboa Park in 2015. The groups or partners responsible for each element are also listed. Other groups and organizations are still invited to submit applications to the City for additional Centennial events.


  • Adopt-a-Plot Program: Invites individuals or groups to adopt a garden within the historic core of the park. These volunteers will improve and maintain the gardens throughout the year. City of San Diego/Friends of Balboa Park.
  • Expansion of Japanese Friendship Garden: Includes a traditional tea house, a pavilion that seats 300 patrons, an outdoor amphitheater and accessible paths compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Japanese Friendship Garden.
  • Botanical Building Renovation: A $3 million fundraising campaign is underway to restore the building to its original 1915 splendor. Balboa Park Conservancy.
  • Plaza de Panama Enhancements: Placing amenities throughout the plaza to activate for public use. Currently in final stages of design. City of San Diego.
  • Light Up the Park: Replaces current lighting with new energy efficient fixtures in key pedestrian areas and parking lots. Adds programmable Red, Green, Blue LED lights along El Prado to allow architectural color washes on buildings and activate the park at night. City of San Diego/SDG&E.
  • Cabrillo Bridge Retrofit: Ongoing capital improvement and lighting project. Caltrans/City of San Diego.
  • WiFi Throughout the Park: Balboa Park will have one of the largest free public WiFi networks on the West Coast. Expected to go live in January. Balboa Park Online Collaborative/City of San Diego.
  • New Balboa Park Documentary: A 30-minute film on the history of Balboa Park that debuts in December. San Diego History Center/U-T San Diego/Electric Ivy Creative Group.
  • Reopening of the California Tower: Closed to the public for 80 years, the doors to the tower are scheduled to reopen to park guests in January after three years of renovation. Provides a breathtaking, 360-degree view of San Diego. Museum of Man/City of San Diego.
  • New Signage: Restoration of 38 way-finding and informational signs throughout the park. City of San Diego/San Diego Foundation/Friends of Balboa Park.
  • New Food and Beverage Contract: The City has issued a request for proposals to enhance food concession options in the park. The new contract would allow food trucks. City of San Diego.
  • Cabrillo Bridge Guardhouses: Repair of two guardhouses at the bridge's west entrance and reconstruction of missing ornamentation on top. City of San Diego/Friends of Balboa Park.
  • Interpretative Signage for Historic Buildings: Creation of signs to highlight the remaining buildings and gardens from the 1915 expo. City of San Diego/Friends of Balboa Park.
  • Coast to Cactus Exhibit: Construction of a 9,000-square-foot, $9 million permanent exhibition that takes visitors through the amazingly varied habitats of Southern California. Opens in January. Natural History Museum.
  • Lily Pond Upgrades: Refinish the concrete balustrades between the ponds and add landscape lighting for nearby planter beds. City of San Diego/Friends of Balboa Park/Balboa Park Trust.
  • LEED Certified Buildings: Ten buildings within Balboa Park will be LEED certified by 2015. Various organizations in partnership with SDG&E and the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership are implementing nearly 300 energy efficiency projects to save $1.3 million annually in energy costs.
  • Elevator Upgrades: The eight elevators in operation throughout Balboa Park will be modernized and enhanced. City of San Diego.
  • El Cid Balustrades: Restoration of wooden railing and improvements to make walkway ADA accessible. Friends of Balboa Park/City of San Diego.
  • Park-wide ADA Improvements: Several areas of the park will receive ADA upgrades to make them more accessible, including Casa de Balboa, Museum of Man, Timken Art Gallery, Morley Field Tennis Club and the Hall of Nations. In addition, curb ramps will be installed to West El Prado. City of San Diego.
  • Old Globe Way Renovation: Improve ADA access, lighting and parking to the north side of Balboa Park as part of the Zoo's parking structure construction. San Diego Zoo.
  • Art Restoration: Various sculptures, murals and basins throughout the park are receiving conservation treatment through funding provided by the Arts and Culture Commission.


  • December Nights 2014/2015: The annual holiday festival will serve as the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2015 Balboa Park Centennial. Balboa Park Conservancy/City of San Diego.
  • Garden Party for the Century: This spring signature event will highlight Balboa Park's gardens and horticultural history with a floral show, garden tours, expert consultations, demonstrations and entertainment. The celebration will kick off April 24 (Arbor Day) and highlight gardens on the West and East Mesas each weekend until May 9 (the day before Mother's Day). City of San Diego/Friends of Balboa Park/San Diego Floral Association/Botanical Foundation/Master Gardeners/Balboa Park Cultural Partnership/San Diego Zoo/Fern Street Circus
  • Twilight in the Park: Expansion of the existing Twilight in the Park program with the goal of bringing free music, dance and theater performances to Plaza de Panama, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and garden areas throughout 2015. Performances are currently being scheduled. City of San Diego/Twilight in the Park Organization.
  • Centennial Concert: This once-in-a-lifetime New Year's Eve event will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the concert that dedicated the Spreckels Organ and launched the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. It will begin with a grand processional march down El Prado led by bagpipers before various musicians and singers perform in the Organ Pavilion. Dec. 31, 2014, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Spreckels Organ Society.
  • Centennial Railway Garden: This exhibit features a model of Balboa Park as it was in 1915 and a spectacular use of new technology, sustainable-energy practices and sculpture art. January 2015 to June 2016. San Diego Model Railroad Museum.
  • The Discovery of King Tut: Using state-of-the-art technology, this exhibition recreates a piece of the fascinating, bygone exotic empire on the Nile. Oct. 11, 2014, to April 26, 2015. Natural History Museum.
  • Living History Car Show and Antique Car Tour: This show celebrates the centennial of the San Diego Exposition Road Race, which took place during the 1915 expo. It will be held near the San Diego Automobile and Air & Space Museum on Jan. 10. La Jolla Horseless Carriage Club.
  • A Century of Dance: This variety dance show will feature the talents of San Diego's top dance troupes performing in various styles, such as tap, jazz, lyrical, modern and hip hop. Jan. 30 to Feb. 15. City of San Diego/San Diego Civic Dance Association.
  • Spanish Village Art Center History and Retrospective Art Show: Visitors will explore the 80-year history of the Spanish Village Art Center through a walking tour and scavenger hunt to discover the center's rich art and architecture. January 2015. Spanish Village Art Center.
  • 7 Billion Others: A groundbreaking, multimedia exhibition that brings voices and compelling video portraits from more than 6,000 individual interviews filmed in 84 countries by nearly 20 directors. February to September. Museum of Photographic Arts.
  • 2theXtreme - MathAlive!: This interactive exhibit focuses on science, technology, engineering, math and innovation with interactive experiences. Jan. 24 to Sept. 13. San Diego Air & Space Museum.
  • Balboa Park Exposition Designers 1915-1935: This exhibit displays the work of more than 20 of the most significant architects, designers and landscape architects that worked on the 1915 and 1935 expositions. February to November. Marston House Museum & Gardens/Save Our Heritage Organisation.
  • Fall Signature Event: To be announced. City of San Diego.


  • Balboa Park Centennial Website: This new interactive site will include information on all of the events, exhibits and park improvements that make up the 2015 Balboa Park Centennial. Go to balboapark.org and click on the "2015 Celebration" tab. City of San Diego/Balboa Park Online Collaborative/Balboa Park Cultural Partnership/Balboa Park Conservancy.
  • Special Centennial Exhibits: Historic exhibits that explain the history of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and the four remaining structures created for the expo. The exhibits will be at the Central Library, the City Hall lobby and the airport. City of San Diego/Balboa Park Conservancy/Balboa Park Marketing.
  • HD Cameras in the Park: 14 high definition cameras are being installed to provide 24/7 views of Balboa Park. They will be used for promotional purposes and to broadcast Centennial events. City of San Diego.
  • San Diego County Fair: The theme for next year's fair is "A Fair to Remember: A Celebration of World's Fairs and Balboa Park." Fair officials plan to create an exhibit on Balboa Park's history and promote the 2015 Balboa Park Centennial throughout their event. San Diego County Fair.
  • Historic Trolleys: The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System will be wrapping one of its historic trolleys to promote the 2015 Balboa Park Centennial throughout the year. MTS/SDG&E/City of San Diego.
  • Centennial Banners: Banners will be posted in and around Balboa Park to promote the centennial throughout the year. City of San Diego.
  • Long-term Strategic Plan: The Tourism Marketing District is creating a plan to establish Balboa Park as a tourist and cultural destination that attracts visitors from nearby regional markets. The TMD has set aside $2 million for this ambitious project.

CONTACT: Craig Gustafson at (619) 453-9880 or [email protected]


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