$9.6 million later, Point State Park's restored fountain to spout on June 7
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After decades of on-again, off-again function, the signature fountain in Point State Park will leap back into operation on June 7.
The fountain will resume at the opening of the Three Rivers Arts Festival thanks to a $9.6 million renovation that moved the pumps and electrical systems out of the flood plain into a second-story addition to the pump house at the Point, where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join to form the Ohio.
Riverlife, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust made the announcement Thursday.
The fountain was shut off in April 2009 and work to repair and upgrade it began late last year. It was the last and most expensive piece of the $35 million park renovation, which began in 2007.
The news that the fountain will return to service "is great for a lot of reasons," said John Valentine, executive director of Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corp. "First of all, it's a landmark. Also, a lot of tourists, residents and students congregate there. It's beautiful, it's art, it's important on so many levels."
"I'm really excited," said Connie George, spokeswoman for Visit Pittsburgh, a tourism organization. "We've been talking about the day when the fountain opens for a long time here because of course that view is one of the most unique views in the world, one we use in many of our publications."
Professional photographers have been retained to take still photos and video of the fountain's first sprays, she said.
"The Great Allegheny Passage will be complete very shortly after that. All those things culminating will be a great opportunity to showcase the fountain as a symbolic revitalization of our region," Ms. George said.
Stephan Bontrager, spokesman for Riverlife, said more than half the money needed for the fountain upgrade came from private contributions, corporate donations, foundations "and people from all over the region who gave $5 and $10."
The fountain, which Ralph Griswold and Charles Stotz designed, cost $1 million when it was built in 1974.
The water flow that feeds the fountain is 54 feet under ground and is known as the city's fourth river. The spray is typically kept at around 150 feet, Mr. Bontrager said.
Renovation of the fountain included raising the 200-foot granite ring and the plaza around it, he said. "So it's a few more inches out of the flood plain and the walking surface now makes it easier to sit on the side of the fountain."
The fountain will have a disappearing edge waterfall feature inside the basin, a restored outer basin ring, new pumping equipment and new LED lighting.
A ceremony on June 7 will coincide with the first day of the Three Rivers Arts Festival, a 10-day event sponsored this year by Dollar Bank. Riverlife, DCNR and the arts festival have put out a request for proposals from local artists, lighting designers and architects for a temporary lighting concept to showcase the fountain at the ceremony.
The reopening of the fountain will mark a new chapter in the story of the Point..
It has been, at different points in the city's history and pre-history, a strategic location during the French and Indian Wars, an industrial site and later a deteriorating eyesore.
Planning for a park at the Point began in the 1930s. In 1974, it opened as a 36-acre park with the original fountain.
First Published December 21, 2012 12:00 am