Mayor: Balboa Park will be ready for centennial celebration

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SAN DIEGO -- A New Year's Eve concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion will be part of Balboa Park's 100th anniversary celebration in San Diego, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Council President Todd Gloria announced Monday.

The concert, scheduled for Dec. 31 from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., will include a processional along El Prado led by bagpipers. That will be followed by performances from a variety of musical acts.

The show is organized by the Spreckels Organ Society.

San Diego has struggled to produce a yearlong celebration of the park, which opened with the Panama-California Exposition in 1915, an event that first brought international attention to the city. A nonprofit volunteer group tried to put together large-scale events that would attract tourists to San Diego next year, but it folded after being unable to find major sponsors.

The city of San Diego and the park's museums are now organizing the centennial celebration.

“In 2015, San Diegans are going to fall in love with Balboa Park all over again,'' 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 is scheduled to begin two months from now with the annual December Nights holiday festival. The 2015 edition of December Nights will bring the centennial to a close.

The city is also sponsoring an event in the spring called “The Garden Party of the Century,'' and will host one more event later in the year.

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.

The city and Museum of Man are also repairing the California Tower, which offers sweeping views of the city but has been closed to the public for 80 years. The tower could be open by January.

“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,'' Gloria said.

Among the major events at the park's cultural institutions are “The Discovery of King Tut,'' which opened this past weekend at the San Diego Natural History Museum and is scheduled to remain through late April, a multimedia program called “7 Billion Others'' at the Museum of Photographic Arts, and an exhibition called “Gauguin to Warhol'' at the San Diego Museum of Art.

Faulconer and Gloria toured a construction site at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park Monday. The project is part of the overall park renovations.

When the work is complete, the entire park will have a new lighting system illuminated with LED lights. It will stage fireworks shows and concerts.

"The whole point of the celebration is to really look ahead to next 100 years so all these changes we're putting in are designed to last for generations of San Diegans," Faulconer said.

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