The plaza boasts new tables, chairs, umbrellas, benches, games, an "outdoor living room" and a lawn for lounging, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. He said new presentation panels will allow park museums to display their collections and exhibits 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," Faulconer said. "This is where San Diego communities come together, making this project a great addition to the centennial celebration."
Balboa Park is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Panama-California Exhibition, which first brought international attention to San Diego.
For several years now, the plaza has been a focus of civic leaders who want to make the area more friendly to pedestrians.
A plan to re-route cars out of the plaza, floated by Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, was struck down in court two years ago. A group of preservationists contended that a bypass bridge envisioned by Jacobs was out of character with the park.
Southwest Airlines contributed $85,000 to the latest improvements and the San Diego Foundation the remaining $32,000 cost.
"Our purpose at Southwest is to connect people to what's important in their lives," said Gary Kelly, Southwest president and CEO. "What better way to do that than by helping to create more access to our public spaces where communities can come together."
The Project for Public Spaces and the Balboa Park Conservancy held a series of workshops for the public 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 under-utilized assets," said Carol Chang, conservancy president. "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."