Report: Balboa Park Centennial could have big economic bang

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A year-long centennial celebration of Balboa Park in 2015 could generate 600,000 additional room nights for local hotels and an economic impact for the city of nearly $662 million, organizers of the event said Wednesday.

Joe Terzi, a member of the celebration's steering committee, told members of the City Council's Natural Resources and Culture Committee that an “aggressive” national marketing campaign could result in the large number of room nights, which would be on top of what area hotels normally get.

Even a lesser, regional campaign could produce an additional 300,000 room nights, with an economic impact of $331 million, Terzi said.

Visitors would spend money at hotels, restaurants, businesses and local attractions, which would result in sales tax revenue for the city, as well as hotel room taxes of between $4.7 and $9.5 million, according to the steering committee's report.

Terzi said the national campaign could have an impact of “three or four Comic-Cons.”

City Councilman Todd Gloria said the celebration was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to drive tourism and restore San Diegans' civic pride in the park.

Balboa Park was created to host the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, which was followed 20 years later by the California-Pacific Exhibition in 1935. The park is now the home of the San Diego Zoo, museums, a municipal golf course and a naval hospital.

Gloria said the steering committee hopes to be “revenue-neutral” for the city's general fund, and will be funded through sponsorships and ticket sales for some events.

Mike McDowell, the vice president of the steering committee, said the city will have to continue upkeep at the park and come through with capital improvements in some areas.

Gloria said the deferred maintenance backlog at the park was estimated a couple of years ago to be $250 million.

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