Infrastructure & Environment

Spouting Off

St. Louis has the Gateway Arch; Seattle has the Space Needle. So when Dayton, Ohio, began redeveloping its waterfront as an urban park three years ago, civic leaders decided on a fountain as the defining landmark for their downtown skyline.
by | May 2003

St. Louis has the Gateway Arch; Seattle has the Space Needle. So when Dayton, Ohio, began redeveloping its waterfront as an urban park three years ago, civic leaders decided on a fountain as the defining landmark for their downtown skyline.

Not just any old fountain, mind you, but the largest river fountain in the world--a gigantic, $4 million project that would span the Greater Miami and Mad rivers. Thirty-foot-tall pumping stations, strategically placed at the points of a pentagon, would shoot water 200 feet into the air, and then the five falling streams of water would come together in a mighty column mid-river.

Unfortunately, the fountain didn't work quite as expected. The five streams never completely converged, and Dayton ended up with what Maureen Pero of the Downtown Dayton Partnership calls "a donut effect in the middle." What's more, people and vehicles on the Riverside Drive bridge--as well as downtown buildings--got soaked by a heavy mist, which sometimes left a chalky residue.

Last summer, after considerable tinkering, the fountain was turned off until a solution could be found. One easy fix would be to reduce the water pressure at the pumping stations and accept the fact that the streams would not meet. Officials rejected that idea, however. "If you just turn it down so you don't have the mist, it would look incomplete," maintains Philip Miller, engineering and construction manager with Montgomery County's public works department.

Instead, the project's public and private partners decided to erect another fountain at a cost of about $1 million. "We'll have a [central] jet that shoots 200 feet in the air and 15 angle jets around the center that go out onto a counter-arcing pattern," says Miller, who describes the new styling as a "fleur-de-lis look." It's scheduled to debut on Memorial Day weekend.

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