One of the earliest proposals for Kansas City envisioned it to be a bustling metropolis with “more fountains than Rome” and since its first fountain spouted in 1899, the city has strived to achieve that distinction. Now known as the “City of Fountains”, Kansas City is home to over 200 registered fountains; second only to Rome, the Italian city that served as its inspiration.
Roman record aside, Kansas City’s infatuation with water features also serves as a symbol of its spirit, hope and origins, as the city’s original outpost was founded at the confluence point of the Kansas and Missouri rivers in 1850. Given this longstanding fascination with water, it is unsurprising that Kansas City’s cherished fountains encompass many styles, from traditional ornamental displays to modern sequencing features. Chief among the contemporary installations, the Henry Wollman Bloch Fountain is one of Kansas City’s crown jewels in their expansive water feature collection.
Designed as a local landmark, and intended to take Kansas City’s fountains to another level, the Henry Wollman Bloch Fountain is a wondrous combination of art, showmanship, and tribute to its namesake; the former chairman of H&R Block. Inaugurated in 2002, the fountain consists of 232 sequencing jets with accompanying lights, arranged in three concentric rings and surrounded by a water skin on an ellipse of black granite. The complex fountain choreography can range from ambient to playful and emphatic, as it’s able to support a wide variety of functions taking place at the neighboring Union Station.
Despite its significant stature, the Bloch fountain has not been immune to the passage of time, and in the years since its debut, it has begun to break down. Realizing this deteriorated state was unsuitable for one of its iconic fountains, Kansas City recently approved ambitious plan to upkeep and update the Bloch fountain with the latest technology. Working in conjunction with Water’s Edge Aquatic Design, Crystal Fountains provided 120 of their state-of-the-art RGBW LED fixtures to replace the Bloch fountain’s original halogen lighting. Not only are the new LEDs more energy efficient with a longer lifecycle when compared to the previous halogens, they also provide more illumination, and an expanded color palette that allows for more vivid colors and mixing options.
Due to the cost and complexity of maintaining the original sequencing jets, the majority were removed during the renovation. Meanwhile, the remaining center high burst jets were updated with replacement DMX/RDM solenoid valves, ensuring the fountain could perform to its fullest capacity.
The lighting, pump, and jet control systems were also completely replaced with a much simpler, modern DMX/RDM system that allows for future integration with the lighting systems of the adjacent Kansas City Union Station. The new control panels will allow for the possibility of the owner/operator group creating their own custom fountain shows in the future.
To compliment the renovation process, the Bloch Fountain also received a fresh set of programmed shows to accompany its new equipment. During the week, the fountain’s displays are mostly passive and feature white lighting, (similar to the Bloch Fountain’s original displays) before switching over to active shows with brighter colors to celebrate the weekend. In addition to the standard show selections, special thematic displays were programmed for use during specific holidays and to support local sports teams; like the Royals and Chiefs.
Armed with updated fountain equipment and a new selection of sequencing shows, the Henry Wollman Bloch Fountain will continue to mesmerize both guests and inhabitants of Kansas City for years to come. It remains one of the premier fountain attractions in a city known for its water feature architecture.