Balboa Park: A national treasure

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Balboa Park is a gem and a San Diego royalty. Born in celebration, it has been and will be the scene of many more celebrations in the future.

The Panama Canal, one of the engineering wonders of the world, though 4,000 miles away for San Diego, inspired the creation of Balboa Park.

The City of San Diego wanted to celebrate the opening of the canal, and promote San Diego as a port of call on the West coast.

City leaders came together and built the first parts of the Balboa Park visitors know and enjoy today.

It cost just $450,000 state tax dollars at the time, and for the city, it was worth it.

On New Year’s Eve in 1914, Woodrow Wilson flipped a switch in the White House, opening the 1915 Panama-California exposition in San Diego. The event put Balboa Park and the rest of San Diego on the map as a true American treasure.

Former City Mayor Bob Filner, proposed a grandiose celebration devoted to making 2015 sparkle. It seemed all too good to be true, and it was.

When Filner resigned in scandal amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment, the project to celebrate Balboa Park came to a screeching halt.

After two years of work, and four CEO’s, a city audit found the Balboa Park Celebration Committee had a complete lack of oversight.

It had wasted three million dollars with nothing to show for it.

The beginning of 2014 did not look promising for the centennial celebration, but when Mayor Faulconer was sworn in, he took a different approach.

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

Starting off with a fresh clean slate, the city took back control.

The city has been able to restore Balboa Park with new improvements through a public-private partnership.

Some of those new improvements include the reopening of the California Tower to the public and provide free wi-fi.

Now, 100-years later, Balboa Park continues to be a national treasure for San Diegans.

It was not always called Balboa Park, it began as a simple city park.

Some historians have described it as the Central Park of the West.

On December 31st, Balboa Park will officially begin its 100th year.

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