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Plans Released For Balboa Park 2015 Centennial Celebration

A boy walks past the Museum of Man in Balboa Park, Oct. 2, 2013.
Associated Press
A boy walks past the Museum of Man in Balboa Park, Oct. 2, 2013.

Plans Released For Balboa Park 2015 Centennial
Plans Released For Balboa Park 2015 Centennial GUESTMichael Ruiz, Balboa Park 2015 district manager

Maureen Cavanaugh: This is KPBS midday edition I’m Maureen Cavanaugh. Plans for the centennial event in Balboa Park next year have gone through a lot of changes. From the extreme of planning an international celebration that would bring the world to San Diego to the disbanding of the centennial planning group earlier this year, San Diegans haven’t really known what to expect, but today San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer and city leaders are announcing the official plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Panama-California exposition in Balboa Park. I’d like to welcome my guest Michael Ruiz district manager for Balboa Park 2015. Michael, welcome to the program. Michael Ruiz: Good afternoon, thanks for having me. Maureen Cavanaugh: Now, Mayor Faulconer is announcing today that the goal of the centennial is to make San Diegans fall in love with Balboa Park all over again. So this is a pretty locally focused celebration isn’t it? Michael Ruiz: It’s true. You know, what Balboa Park is today is really a representation of what began one hundred years ago. You know, just as the 1915 Panama-California exposition created the backbone of what the park is today through the creation of the California Tower, the Cabrillo Bridge, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and the Botanical Building. The city’s, the park’s and the communities’ efforts and partnership today illustrate the commitments San Diegans have to make sure Balboa Park is around for another 100 years. Maureen Cavanaugh: Right so it’s basically focused on sort of reintroducing in a way the park to people who may think they know it or people who haven’t been there in a while. It’s, you know, sprucing it up and re-presenting it to the people of San Diego is that right? Michael Ruiz: It’s that and everything else. I mean it’s, you know the mayor’s plan for the 1915 centennial to elevate, celebrate and promote Balboa Park, really has allowed this creation of collaborations and partnership that stem from a community desire to preserve and enhance Balboa Park for the long term. You know, for example, the announcement of the website that is rolling out everything that’s going to highlight what’s going on for next year. And that in itself is a partnership with the Balboa Park cultural partnership, the online collaborative, the conservancy and the city of San Diego. So today through visitors and San Diegans will be able to have a look at the website and get a feel for what to expect for the coming year. Maureen Cavanaugh: Let’s get down to it and talk about some of the things they can expect for the coming year. The words elevate, celebrate and promote are being used as part of this rollout of what’s going to happen for the centennial celebrations. When it comes to elevating the park, that seems to refer to some park improvements, how will the park be improved? Michael Ruiz: Well, for example, literally, The Museum of Man and the city of San Diego are opening up the California Town for the first time in 80 years, so you’ll be able to see Balboa Park from a height that you’ve never been able to see it for the first time. Maureen Cavanaugh: At 360° view of the park from up in The California Tower, is that right? Michael Ruiz: Absolutely, it’s beautiful up there. Maureen Cavanaugh: And LED lighting, where is that going to be? Michael Ruiz: Primarily on the El Prado from the California Tower to the Bea Evenson Fountain which is out in front of the Reuben H. Fleet. So in the evenings, this again is in partnership with the city, SDG&E, to not only bring color lighting and color washing to the buildings in the evening. To activate the park at night to allow people to have another experience when they come to the park. But also is going to save in electrical usage, over 50% just from changing those electrical lights from standard to LED. Maureen Cavanaugh: And free Wi-Fi throughout the park right? Michael Ruiz: Oh absolutely. And I have to say it’s going to be one of the largest free public Wi-Fi system on the west coast. Maureen Cavanaugh: Now the exhibitions on the park’s museums will be a major focus of the celebration. Now we, on today’s program we are going to be talking a lot more about the Discovery King Tut exhibition at the Museum of Natural History, that’s coming up later in the program. What are the other museum programs that are geared towards this centennial celebration? Michael Ruiz: Well the Museum of Art rolled out a Warhol and Gaugin, The Natural History Museum, we mentioned Tut, but they also have a new exhibit that falls right underneath the elevate component, because they actually built 9,000 square foot new exhibit called Coastal Cactus and that’s really highlighting the unique ecosystems that we have right in our backyards. Maureen Cavanaugh: There’s a Dr. Seuss exhibit at the History Center, there’s a big video presentation at the Museum of Photographic Arts called 7 Billion Others. Are there any plans to make these events free to the public? Michael Ruiz: Not at this time. Not the ones associated with the institutions. They’ll have their normal entry fees. But the free events, December Nights 2014 and 2015, we’re really excited about at that, we’ll be adding some new components to it that we’re just working on right now, and of course on May 9th will be the Garden Party for the century. That’s a city sponsored event in collaboration with the over 100 botanical and horticulture organizations within the park, the San Diego Zoo Master Gardeners and on and on. Of course the unique partnership with the San Diego County Fair will be a big component of that as well. Maureen Cavanaugh: Right. There’s a crossover between the county fair next summer and this celebration in Balboa Park. Michael Ruiz: That’s true. For the first time the fair is actually theming their fair, “A fair to remember” a celebration of world fairs and Balboa Park. So we’re excited about that opportunity because we’ll begin to work on those exhibits and those ideas together. Maureen Cavanaugh: How much is this Centennial event going to be costing the city? Michael Ruiz: It’s really collaboration. For example The California Tower, The Cabrillo Bridge. The zoo has a project going on the “Light the park project”, that’s about $700,000 or so. It’s really a culmination of all those partnerships coming together and showing what, not only the park, but the greater community and the region can do together. Maureen Cavanaugh: Is it costing the city anything? Michael Ruiz: Staff time. My time here with you today, of course. Maureen Cavanaugh: And that’s it? Michael Ruiz: Well, all the culmination of all the departments working on enhancing the lighting, because those are actually city services that are coming together and changing out those lights. So, labor, I guess you could call it. Time coming together and putting that in making sure we’re enhancing the park to last. Maureen Cavanaugh: The Balboa Park Centennial celebration committee disbanded earlier this year Michael, after spending more than two million dollars in public funds with almost nothing to show for it. After that debacle some people were wondering whether or not we were actually going to have anything going on in the park in 2015. Why does the city still feel is important to mark this 100th anniversary? Michael Ruiz: As I mentioned Balboa Park is really the city’s park, and the region’s park. And to not mark that 100-year anniversary, of that 1915 Panama-California exposition, really allowed San Diego to become a mature city if you will, and now we’re celebrating that opportunity to recognize that change within the city and within our region. And make sure that the park is around for another 100 years. Maureen Cavanaugh: And it kicks off this year during the December Nights is that right? Michael Ruiz: December 5th hope to see you there. Maureen Cavanaugh: And there’s a big New Year’s celebration in the Organ Pavillion is that right? Michael Ruiz: The organ itself is also turning 100 years and they’re adding a few more pipes. We may be coming close to being one of the largest outdoor organs in the world Maureen Cavanaugh: Okay then. I want to appreciate the fact that you’ve been here and the big rollout is being announced today in Balboa Park by mayor Kevin Faulconer and the website, if you want to find out exactly what’s going on the park is: Michael Ruiz: Maureen Cavanaugh: I’ve been speaking with Michael Ruiz. He’s district manager for Balboa Park 2015. Thank you so much. Michael Ruiz: Thank you.

Plans for the 2015 Centennial celebration in Balboa Park next year have gone through a lot of changes. From the extreme of planning an international celebration that would bring the world to San Diego — to the disbanding of the Centennial planning group earlier this year, San Diegans haven't really known what to expect.

But Monday, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and city leaders announced the official plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park.


“In 2015, San Diegans are going to fall in love with Balboa Park all over again,” Mayor Faulconer said. “We’ve brought people together to create and promote dozens of activities and improvements that will rekindle civic pride in our city’s crown jewel. This inclusive, community-driven Centennial is a reflection of how much San Diegans treasure Balboa Park and how invested they are in preserving it for future generations.”

The celebration aims to elevate, celebrate and promote the park through several improvements, special events and a long-term plan to make Balboa Park a premier cultural destination.

It officially kicks off with December Nights on Dec. 5. The 2015 edition of December Nights will bring the Centennial to a close.

Other events include a New Year's Eve concert, a variety of art and dance shows, a spring signature event highlighting the park's gardens and a fall signature event that will be announced at a later time.

The New Year's Eve concert will be held at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion Dec. 31 from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. It will include a processional along El Prado led by bagpipers. That will be followed by performances from a variety of musical acts.


Museums at Balboa Park are also planning special exhibits to coincide with the Centennial.

“Balboa Park is the place to be in 2015,” said Deborah Klochko, chair of the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership and executive director of the Museum of Photographic Arts. “Our institutions have over 100 exhibitions and programs planned, including 'Gauguin to Warhol' at the San Diego Museum of Art, 'Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss' at the History Center, 'The Discovery of King Tut' at the San Diego Natural History Museum and '7 Billion Others' at the Museum of Photographic Arts. It will be a fantastic yearlong Centennial with plenty of activities for San Diegans and visitors alike.”

Come January, park officials are reopening the California Tower to the public for the first time in 80 years. The tower offers sweeping views of the city.

Also, the city is making improvements to lighting throughout the park, enhancing the Plaza de Panama, developing a free public wireless Internet system that will be available throughout the park, and is renovating Old Globe Way, among other things.

"Just as the 1915 Panama-California Exposition spurred development of permanent assets in Balboa Park, the 2015 Centennial is a catalyst for increased investment that will preserve our park and ensure its vitality for the next 100 years," San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria said.

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Plans Released For Balboa Park 2015 Centennial