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Head Of Balboa Park Centennial Stepping Down Due To Tourism Marketing District Issues

The head of the nonprofit group responsible for producing the 2015 Centennial Celebration in Balboa Park announced Monday he is stepping down.

Mike McDowell, the CEO of Balboa Park Celebration, Inc., will return to his position as CEO of the San Diego Lodging Industry Association.

McDowell felt the need to return to his previous position because he needs to focus on issues with the marketing arm of San Diego’s tourism industry, the San Diego Tourism Marketing District, said Gerry Braun, a spokesman for Balboa Park Celebration.

Although the San Diego City Council approved a long-term agreement with the TMD last year, Mayor Bob Filner has said he wants a new agreement. Filner is also keeping millions of dollars from the TMD's budget by refusing to sign off on their contract.

"Now (Mike McDowell) is going back to his first love and really the issue that he's championed in San Diego for a decade or more, which is the tourism industry," Braun said. "So he's really just returning to his strong suit as a business leader."

Braun said McDowell would not be leaving his post with Balboa Park Celebration if it were not for the TMD issues.

McDowell's departure could be seen as another setback for the 2015 Centennial Celebration. Organizers had originally hoped to complete a renovation of the park's Plaza de Panama in time for the celebration, but that project was recently squashed by the courts. Planning was put on hold again when $459,000 appropriated by the City Council for the celebration was not transferred to the Balboa Park Centennial Celebration.

But Braun said the loss of Balboa Park Celebration's CEO would not delay planning for the centennial.

"There's an amazing group of people who are working on this project right now and Mike has agreed to help pass the baton over the next several weeks to make sure no continuity is lost," he said. "It will come off without a hitch."

Balboa Park Celebration has already created a search committee to find a new CEO, he said.

The nonprofit has received $450,000 in funds from the city of San Diego, a $40,000 grant from San Diego County, a $300,000 grant from the Tourism Marketing District and $315,000 in grants from private foundations and charitable funds, according to Braun.

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