Reshaping Balboa Park’s Centennial plans

With visions of a light and music spectacular, dazzling fireworks, and 365 days of tantalizing activities, there was no shortage of hoopla and hype when civic and business leaders first took the wraps off their ambitious plans for a massive party in San Diego, the 2015 bash for Balboa Park's Centennial.

“The program we have come up with we vetted, and we believe that it is doable,” said Centennial CEO Julie Dubick in June of 2013.

Dubick just days ago announced her resignation. She quit the Centennial planning group to take a job in the private sector.

“It's probably a regrouping right now,” said new planning co-chair Nikki Clay.

Party planning has been left to Nikki and her husband Ben, both of whom are retired business owners. Right now their group of 16 volunteers will go it alone.

“We have a production firm, Utopia, who are down here full time working with us, so we think we've got the skill sets right now to give us a little breather before we put another person in charge.”

Dubick was the group's third CEO in just two years. The first CEO, Mark Germyn, held the job for five months, and his successor Mike McDowell left after less than a year. The changes at the top also reflect in changes to the Centennial plans, from bold and big, to something smaller in scale and scope.

“We had to shrink wrap this thing down, and we may have to pull another reset button on this,” said co-chair Ben Clay. “We're going to take our special events and plug them in one-a-month or one every two months, whatever we can afford.”

This grand celebration, conceived as a tribute to the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, needs 21st century support, namely in the form of corporate sponsorships, as well as public money.

“The market has changed as far as how people market things these days,” said Ben.

From an initial budget of $20 million, Ben says that figure has had to be revised.

“We started out with $22 million… and now we're looking somewhere around $6 or $7 million.”

So far, the planners have raised about $400,000 from AT&T and two other corporate sponsors, a long way from the millions needed for the celebration.

“That ain't gonna put the show on… to the degree that we'd like to.”

In public dollars, the group has collected about $1 million from San Diego's Tourism Marketing District, but it's still waiting to hear on a second request for an additional $3 million that Ben says has been put on hold.

Faced with a growing crunch for both money and time, the Clays and their volunteers remain hopeful that San Diegans will see a celebration that's worthy of their civic treasure.

“That's what we need, we need an infusion of funds to help make this thing happen.”

The group known as Balboa Park Celebration, Inc. is actively looking for funds, volunteers and ideas. You can go to the group's website for more info.

Categories: KUSI