Water is expected to flow again this summer in one of Kansas City’s showiest fountains thanks to private fundraising that will augment public funds.
The Sea Horse Fountain at Meyer Circle, dry since fall 2015, is on the road to repair at an estimated cost of $605,000.
“We’re on the home stretch,” said Kansas City Parks and Recreation director Mark McHenry. “We hope to start work in March.”
Extensive work will replace the pump, motor and electrical systems that were damaged by flooding in the fountain’s underground vault. Additional refurbishment to the circular pool basin, water pipes and jets and masonry also will be done.
The City of Fountains Foundation had raised about $3.5 million in a multiyear fundraising campaign focused on eight Kansas City fountains, “but we were tapped out,” said Pat O’Neill, president of the foundation, limiting its ability to manage the costly Sea Horse repairs.
The city budget also couldn’t take on the full repair cost of the 92-year-old fountain, “so the gap is coming from private funds,” McHenry said, praising a fundraising effort headed by David Fowler, a retired Kansas City businessman.
“We went about it as a neighborhood initiative, getting donations from both sides of the state line, from $50 on up,” Fowler said. “It’s not a corporate campaign. It’s truly a grass-roots effort.”
Twelve homes associations — from both sides of the state line — are advocating for donations from their memberships.
Those “grass roots” received sizable seed money, a $150,000 gift from Tom and Debbie Ward. The Ward family has been a major contributor to maintenance and improvements along the Ward Parkway corridor.
Fowler said the citizens campaign is raising enough to meet the current cost gap as well as build an endowment to help pay for future Sea Horse Fountain needs.
As of now, the city has allocated $287,000 from district Public Improvements Advisory Committee funds for the Sea Horse project. It also has committed $25,000 from citywide sales tax receipts if needed to help cover construction costs.
Taking into account the Ward commitment, the private campaign headed by Fowler is about $75,000 short of meeting its $250,000 fundraising goal.
“But we’re going to get it,” Fowler said.
JE Dunn Construction has agreed to do the construction work at cost. Detailed plans currently are being drawn by the Walter P Moore engineering firm.
When the private fundraising campaign hits its $250,000 target, there’s also a promised “challenge match” of $75,000 from the city and another $75,000 from the Wards.
All told, the campaign will generate about $855,000 to pay current bills and create an endowment exclusively for the Sea Horse Fountain at Meyer Circle, Fowler said.
“This is not part of the full City of Fountains Foundation,” Fowler said. “This is an independent citizens effort specific to Meyer Circle. … People are taking this on because of pride in their neighborhoods and pride in being the City of Fountains.”
Fowler said alumni of Southwest High School who live in the vicinity have been particularly generous, partly because of memories tied to the fountain. An alumni group representing the class of 1954, for example, just donated leftover funds in its class account.
Anyone wishing to contribute to either the City of Fountains Foundation or the Sea Horse Fountain account may send checks to P.O. Box 9193, Shawnee Mission, KS, 66201-1793. Donations also may be made online at KCFountains.com/sponsor-a-fountain; click on “Meyer Circle Sea Horse Fountain” to differentiate the gift from a sea horse fountain at City Hall.