In the mid-1920s, the City of San Diego hoped to strengthen its economic ties with the military, and offered more than 200 acres of land to the Navy at the north end of San Diego Bay to entice it to move the Recruit Training Station from San Francisco.
Throughout its 70-year history as a military base, the mission of Naval Training Center (NTC), San Diego, had been to provide primary, advanced and specialized training for members of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Naval Reserve. In support of that mission, NTC expanded to include 300 buildings with nearly three million square feet of space. In designing the first buildings at the training station, Navy architects adopted the Mission Revival style. Within a few years, harbor improvements deepened the channel and anchorages in San Diego Bay and added 130 acres of filled land to the Naval Training Station, which was later renamed the Naval Training Center. Development of the base occurred in phases, often in direct response to national defense priorities. As a result, there was no comprehensive plan for NTC, and buildings were scattered throughout the base or existed in small clusters. The base eventually expanded to almost 550 acres.
By the early 1990s, San Diego had become home to more than one-sixth of the Navy's entire fleet. San Diego had more than a dozen major military installations, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the local economy with more than 133,000 uniformed personnel and another 30,000 civilians relying on the military for their livelihood.
Contributing to the Economy
In annual payroll alone for both military and civilian personnel, NTC contributed almost $80 million to the San Diego economy, according to the Navy's 1994 budget. Each year, more than 28,000 visitors came to graduations at NTC, and 80 percent of those visitors were from out of town, contributing almost $7 million annually to the local economy. Beyond these payroll and visitor expenditures, the Navy spent an additional $10 million for base operation support contracts.
The end of the Cold War led to military downsizing and the need to close surplus bases. In 1993, the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission slated NTC for eventual closure.
The Navy closed NTC facilities incrementally. As the military functions on the base dwindled, so did the Navy's budget. Fearing that the lack of activity on the base would lead to security problems, the City and Navy entered into a master lease agreement in 1995 allowing the City interim use of 67 acres of the base site. The agreement was later amended to include more than half of the NTC property, with approximately 75 buildings occupied by interim users. These buildings were subleased from the City to various parties including film companies, nonprofit organizations, City departments, and small businesses. In addition, interim leasing allowed the City to maintain the buildings and landscape areas at a higher standard of maintenance than an otherwise decreasing Navy caretaker budget could provide. The Navy officially closed NTC on April 30, 1997, and all military operations ceased.