San Diego, CA – As the Balboa Park Centennial celebration continues throughout 2015, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, the Balboa Park Conservancy and Southwest Airlines today unveiled a revitalized Plaza de Panama – the central gathering point in storied Balboa Park.

Improvements include new amenities such as tables, chairs, umbrellas, benches, games, an “outdoor living room” and a lawn for lounging. In addition, specially crafted presentation panels allow the adjacent museums to have their collections and exhibits on display outside their buildings.

“The Plaza de Panama is one of the greatest gathering spaces in San Diego and these new amenities will create more opportunities for San Diegans and visitors alike to enjoy Balboa Park,” Mayor Faulconer said. “This is where San Diego communities come together, making this project a great addition to the Centennial celebration.”

Funded by Southwest Airlines and The San Diego Foundation, the new vision for the space was developed with input from the community and park stakeholders to create an active, vibrant gathering place for millions of Balboa Park visitors each year. The total cost of the project was $117,000.

Southwest Airlines provided $85,000 for the project through its Heart of the Community grant program, which is part of the company’s larger commitment to “placemaking” and community development. “Placemaking” is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. It capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness and well-being.

“Our purpose at Southwest is to connect people to what’s important in their lives,” said Gary Kelly, President and CEO of Southwest Airlines. “What better way to do that than by helping to create more access to our public spaces where communities can come together.”

To date, The San Diego Foundation has granted more than $1.75 million – including more than $32,000 for the Plaza de Panama makeover – to support preservation, maintenance and beautification of Balboa Park throughout its fundraising.

“The foundation supports the enrichment and enhancement of Balboa Park and its cultural and recreational programs,” said Kathlyn Mead, President of The San Diego Foundation. “This project will activate the Plaza de Panama and provide opportunities for citizens to further explore the park’s assets.”

A series of collaborative workshops – led by Project for Public Spaces and the Balboa Park Conservancy – were held to provide input on what amenities to include in the project.

“We know the Plaza de Panama is one of Balboa Park’s best and underutilized assets,” said Carol Chang, Board President of the Balboa Park Conservancy. “The collaborative process used to achieve this vision provides opportunities for our cultural institutions to showcase their collections and allows for periodic activities, enhancing the experience of millions of visitors to Balboa Park each year.”