City College pays price for convention center move

Cancelled Balboa Park Project pushes graduation to Convention Center.


Bryan Josue Cruz hugs his mother, Rosa Maria Telles at his graduation earlier this month. By Brian Mohler

Vicky Pineda, Assistant Sports Editor

The city of San Diego’s planned Balboa Park Reservation project, which was meant to renovate the Plaza de Panama section of the park, forced San Diego City College to look for alternative venue options for its yearly commencement ceremony.

The project has since been scrapped but not before City College contracted the San Diego Convention Center to hosts its 105th commencement ceremony.   

“As far as I know its been at Balboa park a long, long, long time,” said Marciano Perez, dean of Student Affairs.

This year’s graduates would be among the first to walk at the convention center instead of the regular tradition at Balboa Park.

Gabi Vankonynenburg, a film major, who is waiting to hear back from the University of Southern California and has been accepted at UC San Diego and San Diego State, will be one of the estimated 700 graduating students.  

She knew that City College graduation is usually at Balboa Park. She found out about the change in venue when she got the invitation in the mail.

“I was amazed (about having) graduation in downtown, by the water,” said Vankonynenburg, currently undecided about which university to transfer to. “Balboa Park is amazing, but being surrounded by the bay makes the ceremony more special.”   

The change of venue will cost City College nearly twice as much as the past commencement.

The Balboa Park venue cost about $40,000 while the Convention Center will run the college about $72,000-$75,000.

However, there are some pros about moving to the convention center.

There will be food vendors at the site, something Balboa Park doesn’t have. The Convention Center is close to the Gaslamp area, graduates and their families could eat at any restaurants in the Gaslamp. The downside, parking is not free.  

The Convention Center will hold between about 3,500 and 4,000, including the graduates.

An overflow room was added for people with kids where the graduation will be shown on a monitor.

“We want it to be meaningful for our students, we don’t want just be in a place where students have no connections,” Perez said. “The plan has always been to go back to Balboa Park once it becomes available.

“We (also) begun to at least, think about what are some potential places, if we are not in the Convention Center and we are not in Balboa Park where else could we be,” said Perez. “So we already began to explore some of those options.”

City College President Ricky Shabazz will meet with the city manager in the summer to discuss the future about Balboa Park.