KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Fountains. Some say they're as much a part of Kansas City as barbecue and jazz are.
On Tuesday, Fountain Day 2018 arrived with the city switching on all public fountains and one refurbished landmark making a comeback of sorts.
It's been said that only Rome has more fountains that Kansas City does. The flow of water remains a point of community pride in KCMO, and on Tuesday, the Spirit of Freedom Fountain, which sits at Emmanuel Cleaver II Boulevard and Cleveland Avenue, was powered up again. The 37-year-old fountain has been closed for renovations since December -- $865,000 worth of work, to be exact, funded mostly through General Obligation Bond money approved by Kansas City voters in 2017.
"Everyone knows us as a city of fountains, and it's a great day when we can turn them on," Troy Schulte, Kansas City Manager, said Tuesday.
Schulte, who has served in his public role for nine years, said $250,000 go into maintaining public fountains each year. On Tuesday afternoon, a Kansas City Parks Board spokesperson was not immediately aware of the city's annual water bill as it relates to fountains.
"With the voter approval of the GO bonds last year, the city was able to allocate $1.5 million to bring the last two fountains, which had been broken and off for some time, back into full operation," Schulte said.
One of those two fountains, the Westside Fountain, which makes Southwest Boulevard and Summit Street its home, is open again. Heidi Markel, who works as a spokesperson for Kansas City Parks and Rec, said that fountain was closed last year due to electrical trouble.
Schulte says public money to keep the city's fountains looking sharp hasn't always been available. When funding wasn't there, public interest groups that campaigned for fountain restoration formed, including the City of Fountains Foundation.
"We had the Festival of Fountains. That spearheaded our capital campaign, and we raised over four million dollars to repair fountains through private contributions alone," said Patrick Dunn, City of Fountains Foundation CEO.
Fountain fanatics in the city agree these monuments are pieces of Kansas City history, and thereby, worth saving and dedicating capital toward maintaining.
Ollie Gates, Kansas City's legendary BBQ restauranteur, remembers when the Spirit of Freedom Fountain was built 37 years ago. Gates, 78, was a park board member at the time, and he recalls viewing this fountain as a tribute to the metro's African-American community.
"I think they were trying to say, 'I've done something. Me too,'" Gates recalled. "So, they said, 'Let's build a fountain to at least tell the people of Kansas City that we're about something and we have something to contribute.'"
Gates also said he's interested in talking with city leaders about a new fountain -- one at 18th and Vine -- that would help preserve the history of Kansas City's jazz district. That would be one more monument to be powered up each Fountain Day.
Schulte said only one KCMO fountain remains out of service: the Delbert Haff Fountain, which sits at the entrance to Swope Park. Schulte said it should reopen soon, after its new pumps and motors are installed. Schulte also said that refurbished fountain will feature new security devices, meant to discourage people from swimming in the water.
"What we don't want is people swimming in the fountains due to the pumps and electrical motors and all that type of stuff. Better safe than sorry," Schulte said. "Enjoy the fountains on the ledge. Go swimming in the city's swimming pools."
The Spirit of Freedom fountain was powered down shortly after Tuesday's ceremony. A contract worker at the site told FOX 4 News it will be restarted in late May, when the water will remain powered on until the autumn months.