Mayor "Will Look Into" Return of Balboa Park Centennial Funds

A look at what’s next for the upcoming Balboa Park Centennial now that the group tasked with planning the event has disbanded

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The celebration of the International Exposition of 1915 is fast approaching.

    Faced with the dissolution of the Balboa Park Centennial planning group, San Diego’s mayor said he will look into getting back the millions of dollars already spent.

    Newly-elected Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the celebration in 2015 will be one that is “fit for San Diego” but did not provide any other details now that the group that was originally tasked with planning the event has disbanded.

    Balboa Park Celebration, Inc. (BPCI) was given almost $3 million of public money to plan an extensive, year-long celebration of Balboa Park.

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    The committee in charge of Balboa Park's Centennial Celebration has opened its books to NBC 7's Gene Cubbison, revealing a cash-strapped operation.

    As of last Friday, the group told NBC 7 the funds had dwindled to just $600,000.

    On Tuesday, BCPI Chair Ben Clay told NBC 7 the group voted to disband amid complications.

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    San Diego's preparations for a year-long tribute to its "Crown Jewel" -- Balboa Park –- haven't been coming together. There are now questions whether the centennial celebration turns out as grand as planners had hoped. NBC 7's political reporter Gene Cubbison explains.

    BPCI spent a good portion designing a year-long event they hoped would draw corporate donations of about $30 million.

    But that didn't happen, according to the organization's spokesperson Gerry Braun.

    Braun said for whatever reason, corporations in San Diego didn't see the event as a good investment for their dollars.

    "I don't think it's appropriate to blame anyone. Some people say it's a perfect storm of over-expectations by the city, a mayor who gave us direction and wasn't able to execute his part of it, I think a lack of support from the community and from corporations," Braun said.

    Mayor Faulconer had criticized the non-profit for refusing to disclose detailed financial information. On Wednesday, the newly-elected mayor assured San Diegans he would look into where the money was spent. 

    "We need to make sure that we have a celebration that the community gets behind, that works for Balboa Park, that is open, that is transparent and has both the park and community support that we need," Faulconer said.

    City Council President Todd Gloria assured San Diegans the upcoming celebration of Balboa Park would be “fantastic” and include “blockbuster attractions.”

    “It’s my hope that some of those dollars are going to be able to form what we’re going to do going forward. It’s not all lost. We will make sure every dollar is accounted for and those are represented clearly to the public," Gloria said.

    People visiting Balboa Park Wednesday were puzzled that organizers didn't better forecast issues.

    "These kinds of problems should have been thought out before hand," said resident Nancy McCall. "Now that we have a new mayor things may shape up somehow."

    Barbara Clark, President of the San Diego Floral Association, said her group's members were disappointed the event will be smaller.

    "The plans sounded very gigantic and large and pretty overwhelming in my mind, but I had high hopes," Clark said.

    BPCI said the decision to disband “culminates months of conversation between BPCI and city leaders, during which BPCI presented scaled-down goals and program plans to reflect its projected funding.”

    Clay gave NBC 7 a look at some of the numbers and promised the group would post certified financial documents in the next week.

    Braun reiterated Clay's promise saying that BPCI would release all financial information in the coming weeks so the public can see for themselves how the money was spent.

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