Mayor touts ‘practical and realistic’ Balboa Park celebration

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SAN DIEGO — The Balboa Park centennial celebration will be centered around the December Nights festival and two other major special events, which should create a lasting legacy, San Diego city officials said Friday.

Faulconer unveils Balboa Park Centennial CelebrationDecember Nights will kick off the celebration this fall and end the festivities near the end of 2015. The other two major events will take place in the spring and summer to highlight San Diego’s culture, people and lifestyle, but details were not announced.

“This will be an event by San Diegans, for San Diegans,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said.

Plans for a yearlong series of activities that would draw national and international visitors collapsed after a citizen’s group failed to attract enough private investment. Balboa Park Celebration Inc. is in the process of disbanding amid questions of what the city got in return for its $2.6 million investment.

On Wednesday, the City Council’s Environment Committee requested financial and performance audits of BPCI.

“One of the things that I think got lost over the past several years is why we wanted to have a centennial celebration in the first place,” Faulconer said. “It’s not about holding a grand spectacle that attracts kings and queens to San Diego. This celebration is about honoring the 1915 Panama- California Exhibition that put our city on the world map.”

The mayor said the reformulated plan is “more practical and realistic.”

It also includes exhibitions already being planned by the park’s various cultural institutions, improvements to facilities and landscaping, and a collaboration with San Diego Gas & Electric and CleanTech San Diego to install energy efficient decorative lighting throughout the park.

SDG&E also committed to improving energy efficiency at 10 museums.

The city’s Tourism Marketing District — which promotes San Diego as a vacation destination — announced plans to highlight Balboa Park in future promotional campaigns.

“Together, we have committed to moving forward with a celebration that is achievable, manageable, that is good for our city and great for our park,” City Council President Todd Gloria said.

He said the celebrations, combined, should set up the park for its next 100 years.