Klyde Warren Park Responds to Criticism Over $10 Million 'Super Fountain' Project

An artist rendering of the "Super fountain" in the works at Klyde Warren Park.EXPAND
An artist rendering of the "Super fountain" in the works at Klyde Warren Park.
courtesy Klyde Warren Park
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Dallas’ skyline is fun. Between the light works at the Omni and the Reunion Tower, we are consistently reminded of the glorious heights achieved by mankind’s erections. Pun intended.

But, let us be honest, architecturally speaking, it’s not the most elegant of cities, and some fear downtown is about to get tackier.

In a move out of Louis XIV, if the Sun King had lived to be moved by the sparkling lights of Las Vegas, Dallas’ Klyde Warren Park will build the tallest interactive water fountain in the whole world, one that squirts water all the way up to 65 feet.

The “super fountain” is a gift from Klyde Warren Park board member Nancy Best and her husband, Randy Best, who gifted the park $10 million for the project.

The Dallas Morning News reports that the “water will come down like raindrops, while kids — and adults — play safely in a shallow wading pool or people-watch from the splashless sidelines.”

That’s not all the fun: “Every evening, the fountain will come alive with an hourly aquatic ‘fireworks’ display of soaring water that’s lit by a kaleidoscope of colors and dancing to soundtracks — a show that will be visible for miles.”

The ambitious project will be brought to life by Jim Garland and his team at the Los Angeles-based Fluidity Design Consultants. According to the DMN, Garland is known as the “Elton John of fountains.”

Garland’s team is responsible for two colossal fountains outside New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as three water features at Klyde Warren.

Regardless, not everyone is excited about this Vegas-tastic addition, no matter how legendary its designer — at least considering the current state of affairs.

“During a time where there are literally lines of cars over a mile long trying to get donated food, a $10 million fountain just screams ‘Let them eat cake,’” says community activist Soraya Santos. “I'm an art lover, and I am proud of our Arts District and our beautiful downtown parks, and would have loved to see this at any other time, but right now it's incredibly tone-deaf.”

A Facebook group called DFW Corona Connection had several posts and comments criticizing the use of the money, suggesting it could’ve been better spent on homeless shelters or other pandemic relief efforts.

“Because a 10 story, $10 million water fountain is exactly what this community needs to bounce back from a pandemic-driven economic crisis. How do you spell tone deaf?” wrote page administrator Josh Smith.

Part of the online backlash was due to a misunderstanding that the park’s fountain would be built with city funding, which is not the case, park organizers say.

Klyde Warren Park President Kit Sawers says the park is supported entirely by donations and gets no funding from the city.

"It's private dollars funding something for the city to enjoy," Sawers tells the Observer. "Klyde Warren Park does not receive tax dollars from the city. It's not your tax dollars at work. It is the generous conglomeration of a lot of donor gifts to provide free opportunities for the community. And this is just the most recent, incredibly generous gift."

Sawers says that while the gift from the Bests is recent, the project predates the pandemic.

"The idea for the fountain has been part of the original plan for Klyde Warren Park since its inception," she says. 

“Obviously we understand what's going on in the world and the timing,” Sawers continues. “We're very aware of the hurt that's happening."

Sawers says the project is "a light at the end of the tunnel" and "good news in a year full of terrible news."

The park president points to other philanthropic efforts, like Klyde Warren's upcoming tree-lighting ceremony, in which the park will raise money for the North Texas Food Bank. The Bests will likely continue other efforts of their own, she adds.

"The Best family themselves are wonderful philanthropists who have and continue to support lots of nonprofit service providers in the city," Sawers says, suggesting that we needn't look at a gift horse in the mouth. "The Bests were again wanting to do something generous for the city. You know, it's free. It's additional free programming for Klyde Warren Park to benefit the city."

Tony Fay, who handles PR for the park, says detractors should consider the park's track record.

“This is all the original founders and board members that built the park 10 years ago," he says. "... You've seen the goodwill that they've done for the park to build it and, you know, really make it what it is now. And I hope people ... will give them a little bit of the benefit of the doubt based on their track record, what they've done and how ... the first-class way they've done it."

The pandemic won't last forever, one hopes, and Sawer says the days are coming when all of Dallas will be glad to have this gift.

“Once we get through all this when it's our first super hot day in 2022 and the kids are splashing around, I think we'll all be very grateful for what a wonderful addition this will be to our city," Sawers said. "And it'll it'll continue to be tasteful and beautiful, just like the rest of Klyde Warren Park."

One thing worth considering is the amount of revenue that can be made back by potential wish-makers throwing coins into the fountain. After all, Rome’s Trevi Fountain collects an approximate $1.5 million a year in loose change. The fountain may just end up paying for itself.

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