After four years, the Point State Park fountain is ready to flow again, but some Pittsburghers won’t be getting as close as they had hoped.
The Great Lawn, located on the fountain side of the Portal Bridge, will be fenced off and closed to the public Friday night during the celebration at the opening of the Three Rivers Arts Festival.
Stephan Bontrager, director of communications for Riverlife, an organization working to restore Pittsburgh’s riverfronts, said a portion of the grass will be closed due to a recent re-sodding and the potential for high foot traffic.
“Whenever you do a massive renovation like this in an area that is used by literally millions of people a year,” Bontrager said, “there are challenges for staging it where one part of the park might be roped off while another part is open.”
Bontrager said people will be allowed to stand in the woodland areas, the riverfront promenades, the city side lawn, the Portal Bridge and the walkways behind the Great Lawn.
Bontrager said the fountain’s facelift was much needed.
“Since it is such a prominent signature part of the Pittsburgh skyline, it was a community priority to renovate the fountain and also update it and add some really exciting new features,” Bontrager said.
Since April 2009, Point State Park has undergone a massive $35 million renovation, including $9.6 million for the fountain makeover. The new fountain will have programmable LED lighting and a waterfall edge.
Planning for Point State Park began in the 1930s, but construction didn’t start until the 1960s, costing approximately $17 million. The original fountain, which opened August 1, 1974, cost less than $1 million, according to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
A state park wasn’t the only option when it came to revamping Pittsburgh’s golden triangle, according to Bontrager.
“Architects and planners didn’t always envision a grand park with a fountain at the tip of the Point,” Bontrager said. “Other ideas for this highly visible spot included a towering shaft of Pennsylvania black granite, a pioneer museum, a town hall, historic monuments, a water park and a parking lot for 4,000 cars.”
Bontrager said the unveiling of the fountain marks the final step in the park’s restoration.
“I think that there’s been a lot of eagerness and anticipation for the fountain coming back because that’s the grand finale to this reconstruction and that is the return of a really prominent part of our Pittsburgh skyline,” Bontrager said.
Friday's event kicks off with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 5 p.m, during which the fountain will be dedicated and switched on, according to Riverlife The unveiling is free and open to the public. More information can be found at Point State Park's website.