Words & Deeds

$750,000 for new Grove Plaza fountain? Better make a splash!

Three-quarters of a million dollars? That’s a lottery payout. Or an overpaid CEO’s salary. Or a real estate listing for a weed-covered lot in Boise’s North End.

The cost of the replacement fountain in The Grove Plaza?

Um, huh? “In round numbers, the fountain was about $750,000,” confirms Doug Woodruff, project manager for Capital City Development Corporation, Boise’s urban renewal agency.

Somebody splash me with cold water. The Grove Plaza renovation is almost complete. Boise’s fancy new squirt gun is firing test geysers. Ostensibly, liquid gold is splattering the pristine bricks. Woodruff says the fountain should be running for the public a week or so before Boise’s summer concert series, Alive After Five, starts its 13-week run June 7.

Call me naive, but the price tag is about 10 times what I would have predicted.

As taxpayers, did we get soaked here? $750K? Lordy, bring on the real waterworks, right?

Lynn Hightower, executive director of the Downtown Boise Association, will be happy to offer you a Kleenex.

“I’ll be honest; I think it’s going to be worth every penny,” she says excitedly. “It’s going to be a treasure.”

“Bellagio-esque”? Did she just make up a word? “Certainly on a smaller scale,” she adds. “But it is high-tech.”

The fountain is 30 by 30 feet, about the same size as the original installed in 1990. The rest of the design? Mostly poured down the drain.

“The old fountain basically had three settings: Off, low and high,” Woodruff says. “This fountain is far from that. It’s controlled by a computer. It uses DMX software to create and run the programs.”

Each of the 25 jets has its own pump, providing complete, customizable water control. Jets are equipped with LED lights capable of fading through various shades of the color spectrum. (Crank up the blue and orange on Bronco football day!) The water streams can be gentle, providing a serene environment for Downtown workers eating lunch outside. They can create a misting fog to cool off overheated bodies in August. Or they can prance and bounce 15 feet into the air during a festival or colorful nighttime display.

“Bring your big boy trunks!” Woodruff says. But don’t worry, Mom. CCDC promises to keep its new toy under control. “For Alive After Five, we’ll have the fountain at an appropriate height setting ... for the kids,” he adds.

It’s also a much more sanitary fountain. We’ve all seen kids guzzling recycled water at Alive After Five. Using a three-filtration system, this fountain meets modern public health standards for cleanliness.

More than ever, Hightower says, The Grove Plaza’s water display will become an iconic aspect of Downtown.

“What I think is going to be the coolest part about this fountain is that it was designed not to be something that you look at, but something that you play with,” she says. “I expect to see everyone from toddlers to people in business suits really reaching out and touching, running through, playing with and being a part of that fountain. And that epitomizes the Downtown experience. It’s not to look at and admire from afar. It’s to be a part of. Touch it, feel it, enjoy it.”

There’s just one problem. Boise’s new high-tech sprinkler does so many nifty things that it can be daunting to program.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Woodruff quips.

Start practicing, buddy. This fountain needs to make a splash in six weeks or so. Otherwise, CCDC’s going to look all wet. Because I have yet to see it doing a $750,000 water display.

“That’s fair enough!” Woodruff says with laugh.

Michael Deeds: 208-377-6407, @michaeldeeds