Comic-Con International to Unveil 68,000 SQFT Museum in Balboa Park This November

San Diego, San Diego Comic Convention, Balboa Park, Cox Innovation Lab, Cox Communications, San Diego Zoo, The San Diego Air and Space Museum, The San Diego Museum of Art, The San Diego Natural History Museum, Port of San Diego, Broadway Pavilion

By Catherine Sweeney 

Comic Convention International will soon open its brand new museum, after announcing construction on the project last month. Set to open to the public on Nov. 26, the nonprofit organization’s new museum will allow for fans of the popular annual San Diego Comic Con event to experience it year-round.  

The 68,000 square-foot project is being facilitated with funding from donations, grants and sponsorships as well as a sizable contribution from Comic Convention International itself. Costs for the project are expected to exceed $26 million and will include three floors of meeting and exhibit space. However, due to fundraising issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the November opening date is just the first phase in the museum’s opening with all exhibits anticipated to be complete by July 2022, at which point 

“For some time, Comic-Con looked for additional ways to advance our mission of promoting comics and related popular art. We had envisioned a gallery or something similar that could provide a year-round effort in addition to our annual convention,” David Glanzer, Chief Communications and Strategy Officer with the organization, said. 

“When the opportunity presented itself to have a museum in the iconic Balboa Park, we deliberated, and after careful consideration decided it would be good both for Comic-Con and for the many visitors to the park each year.”

Comic-Con was founded in 1970, and currently takes place in a 460,000 square-foot exhibit hall. WIth thousands of special guests at the convention over the years – including film and television writers, comic creators, science fiction authors and more- the event’s current programming schedule  averages close to 700 events. In recent years, attendance at the popular event has averaged 130,000 people. 

The museum is taking shape in an existing building at 2131 Pan American Plaza. The building was once part of the 1935-1936 California Pacific International Exposition. According to Comic Con, the historic building features concrete walls, steel roof trusses and a pre-Columbian style facade.  

“As this is an existing structure, the trick is being able to modify the interior to best serve the needs for the Museum while at the same time respecting the history and culture of the building. Luckily, having experienced architects on board makes things simpler. There are a lot of moving parts, but we are happy to say things are progressing nicely,” Glanzer said. 

With designs from local architecture firm LPA Design Studios, the museum will feature several interactive spaces, including a theater room for films, presentations and panels to take place. The museum will also house art classrooms and a STEAM lab studio in what will soon be the museum’s educational center. One of the two classrooms scheduled to open in the Museum’s educational center at this time is the Cox Innovation Lab, which Cox Communications contributed $175,000 towards. 

Once complete, the museum will be located in Balboa Park, one of San Diego’s prime tourist destinations due to the amount of museums and popular attractions in the area. The neighborhood is home to the San Diego Zoo, The San Diego Air and Space Museum, The San Diego Museum of Art, The San Diego Natural History Museum and acres of open space. 

“It isn’t often that a location in Balboa Park becomes available, so while we didn’t seek out the location, we were very pleased and honored to have the opportunity to house our vision within such an important area of the city,” Glanzer said. 

The museum’s efforts are being spearheaded by Rita Vandergraw, who will serve as interim executive director for the facility. According to Glanzer, Vandergraw began work with the organization over the summer and previously worked with the Port of San Diego, which will help the museum establish meaningful relationships with the City. 

Previously, Vandergraw has assisted with major projects and events for the Port, including the overseeing of the Port’s public art program and the building of the Broadway Pavilion. These previous experiences working with large scale public projects will help the organization achieve its mission of providing San Diego residents with a place to learn about comics and art, Glanzer said. 

“Our hope is that the Comic-Con Museum will not only be a place to learn more about comics and related popular art through exhibits, events, and educational opportunities, but also as a gathering place for the community to take part in interactive learning,” he said.