When workers placed the first new seafoam-green plastic panel on the Lake Eola fountain last week, it didn't look any different from the old ones. Still, though casual observers might not notice a difference when the $1.6 million overhaul of Orlando's beloved icon is finished, comparing the old fountain with the new one is like comparing a 1950s rotary phone with an Apple iPhone. The green skin that residents and visitors have lovingly likened to a Jell-O mold will hide the latest technology. The sophisticated systems will allow light and water shows choreographed to music piped through the park's sound system.
The 54-year-old fountain had been deteriorating for years, and a lightning strike in 2009 dealt a fatal blow. A temporary fix got it running again last year, but just barely. Workers spent the past month ripping out its innards, leaving behind only the bare bones of the fountain and the 28 concrete-filled steel pilings it rests atop. "Everything has been stripped down to essentially the bare concrete substructure," Jon Vollet said. The cracked and faded plexiglass panels are gone. All the lights, pumps, electrical panels and pipes were taken out.
Now, with the clock ticking before an unveiling on Independence Day, as many as 30 workers are rushing to rebuild. The $1.6 million comes from a mix of sources: $1.2 million from the city's own self-insurance fund, $300,000 from a private-insurance claim on the lightning damage, $54,000 from a downtown taxing district and $32,716 from donations. A new aluminum frame has been built, and the first plastic panels were clamped in place Thursday.
In the wake of the lightning storm that fried the fountain's lights, pumps and electrical systems, some residents favored replacing it with a new look. But others said the iconic, flying-saucer look of the old fountain should be preserved, and city officials never gave much consideration to a drastic change.
The fountain is so popular, in fact, that city officials are planning to sell chunks of the old plastic panels to raise money for parks. The new plexiglass panels were hard to find. But the company hired for the renovation, Sanford-based Freeport Fountains, managed to find a manufacturer in Mexico that could match the color from samples of the old skin on short notice.
Source: Orlando Sentinel