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New York’s Central Park A Model For San Diego


Balboa Park may be San Diego’s crown jewel, but it has lost some luster over the years. Now new marketing partnerships are being pursued to help fund its restoration.

— Balboa Park will celebrate its centennial in 2015, and like any aging beauty, things aren’t quite what they used to be. The park has a quarter-billion-dollar backlog of deferred maintenance.

Councilman Todd Gloria says the fledgling Balboa Park Conservancy will eventually be tasked with pursuing private sponsorships that could help fund some of the work. But he insists any marketing will be discreet.

“We will not commercialize the park,” he said. “There will not be a Pepsi banner hanging off the California Tower, or the Coca-Cola logo in the middle of the Plaza de Panama.”

Gloria points to New York City’s Central Park as a model. He said sponsorship signs there are discreet and blend into their surroundings.

Scott Johnson is with the Central Park Conservancy. He said it costs $38 million a year to run the park and sponsorships and donations cover 85 percent of that.

“We have donations from as little as whatever money people want to put in a glass donation box,” he said, “to some corporations and people who make large donations to the conservancy to ensure the future of Central Park.”

Johnson said over the past 30 years the Conservancy has invested more than $570 million into the park. The Balboa Park Conservancy is in the process of being certified as a non-profit and will reach an agreement with the city is the coming months.

Outside of Balboa Park several city leaders want to ramp up marketing partnerships with private companies as a way to generate more revenue for San Diego. Gloria said going after the big bucks might require the city to reevaluate its policy on signs and billboards. He said doing something like wrapping temporary advertisements around the Convention Center could bring in a lot of money.

“If we’re closing pools, would it be better to have Spider Man hanging off the side of One Harbor Drive for four days in the summer time, during ComicCon? Is that worth it?” he asked.

Gloria’s budget proposal calls for boosting ad revenue by a relatively modest half-a-million dollars for now, which he says likely wouldn’t require any rule changes. He said the city’s current marketing program has generated about $20 million since 1999.

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