One of Kansas City’s showiest and most prominent fountains has remained dry since flooding in its pump room two years ago made it inoperable.
After nearly $1 million in repairs and rehabilitation work, funded in part by a deluge of private donations, the Sea Horse Fountain at Meyer Circle on Ward Parkway is about to return to its former glory.
Workers are completing the finishing touches. Later this month the fountain will be rededicated at which time the water will start flowing again.
“Ward Parkway is one of the showcase boulevards in Kansas City — a few years back it was named one of the top streets in America,” said David Fowler, who led the fountain fundraising campaign.
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“Because we’re the ‘City of Fountains’ and that fountain sits so prominently on that key boulevard in Kansas City . . . it gets a lot of visibility,” he said.
More than 40,000 people a day drive past the fountain that sits in the traffic circle at Meyer Boulevard and Ward Parkway.
“Nothing sends a negative message more than a dry fountain,” Fowler said.
The fountain was damaged in the fall 2015 when the fountain’s underground vault containing its pump, plumbing and electrical service flooded, causing significant damage and leaving the fountain inoperable. Additionally, the fountain developed leaks in its pool basin.
After seeing the fountain sit dormant and dry for a year, Fowler decided something needed to be done.
“It was discouraging,” Fowler said. “It was embarrassing that it had gotten to that point where it was dry for over a year.
“It’s like a piece of art. I wanted to enjoy it and I wanted the visitors and residents in Kansas City to enjoy it.”
The original fountain with a sea horse sculpture was purchased by J.C. Nichols in the 1920s in Venice, Italy, and placed into operation in 1925. The sea horse sculpture was replaced years ago with a cherub.
In addition to its location and large size, the fountain’s spray of the water makes this fountain stand out.
“The way the water sprays from the nozzles as it shoots out creates this mist that in early morning and late afternoon reflects the sun and makes it particularly enjoyable to observe,” Fowler said.
Funding for the repairs came from a neighborhood initiative to collaborate with the city to raise the money. Rather than asking corporations for donations, organizers turned to area neighborhoods in both Kansas and Missouri.
Fowler calls the project a bi-state collaborative success story.
Along with the City of Fountains Foundation, the neighborhood associations raised nearly $600,000 in donations, of which $350,000 was raised as an endowment for future maintenance of the fountain.
Kansas City provided about $660,000 for the repairs.
Jordan Cline, project manager for Kansas City Parks and Recreation, said workers were completing testing and working on punch list items this week.
The fountain will be filled later this week and a walk through will be completed Monday afternoon. A run-through of the new LED lights will be conducted Monday night.
“We are pretty much in the closing stages,” Cline said.
A re-dedication celebration will be held the week of Oct. 23. The date hasn’t been finalized.
Repairs on the fountain began in April and included rebuilding the vault and refurbishing or replacing its circular pool basin, water pipes, jets and masonry, Cline said.
In July, the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners authorized the addition of perimeter rope lighting, improved waterproofing for the basin and a heavy-duty door to the underground pump room..
“It gives me a lot of relief,” said Cline, who joined the city about a year ago and took over managing the project. He said that having such a prominent job as his first project was “definitely an awakening.”
“This is such an important project in Kansas City — I’m glad for it to come to a close and finally be up and running,” he said. “There were definitely a lot of people concerned about this fountain and a lot of eyes upon it.”