Video: Jacksonville's Friendship Fountain Getting $6M Overhaul

Nov 20, 2019

A $6 million renovation and improvement project is expected to get underway in the spring that will bring state-of-the-art water and sound shows to Friendship Fountain and its surrounding Southbank park.

Technology has come a long way since the big fountain overhaul that was completed in time for Jacksonville’s 2005 Super Bowl and the last major renovation that was done in 2010 at a cost of $3.1 million.

The fountain has experienced a number of mechanical failures and repairs over the years, limiting its function, but the fountain’s redesign is being described as "water cinema": elaborate light shows with spray patterns coordinated with colors and music.

Planning for the upgrades at St. Johns River Park, more commonly referred to as Friendship Park, dates back to when Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer was on the City Council.

“We were looking for different thematic content and ways to activate different spaces that we already had along the riverfront,” said Boyer, who’s former District 5 includes the fountain.

As City Council and other stakeholders looked at repairs it became clear that the existing design had a critical flaw: three pumps. If any one pump failed, it took a third of the fountain with it, said Boyer.

“We were looking for something that was more likely to stay functional over a consistent period that you could perhaps lose one pump or one jet but still have a significant fountain,” said Boyer. The new design adds additional recirculating pumps. 

This rendering illustrates an example of the "water cinema" that the overhauled Friendship Park fountain will be capable of.
Credit City of Jacksonville

A maintenance budget is also a part of the plan to ensure issues that crop up in don’t become long-term problems.

Fluidity is the fountain’s overhaul designer, with Acore and Freeport Fountains the primary contractors, according to Jacksonville Director of Public Affairs Nikki Kimbleton.  

The reconstruction will include a new fountain wall design, seating and integrated sound systems, pumps, lights and more.

The video and renderings in this story are very close to what the public will see, but Boyer said a few tweaks might be made as the design goes from concept to construction.

New seating areas will be part of Friendship Park's renovation.
Credit City of Jackonville
This undated photo, likely taken in the 1960s, shows a view of Friendship Park. The photo from Florida's state library & archives contains no captain information but appears to show the approximate area where River City Brewing Company sits today. The MOSH can be seen in the background along with Friendship Fountain's pump house.
Credit State Library & Archives of Florida.

Friendship Fountain was originally dedicated in 1965. When the existing fountain is operating properly, it can pump 3,500 to 6,500 gallons of water per minute to a height of 100 feet, with 265 lights that contribute to a sparkling mist, according to the city.   

Friendship Fountain’s reconstruction is expected to be completed in early 2021.

The fountain is just one piece of a coordinated “river activation” along the Southbank and Northbank of Downtown Jacksonville.

This illustration shows seating areas and integrated sound systems.
Credit City of Jacksonville

This map illustrates improvements to Friendship Park, including a water cinema feature.
Credit City of Jacksonville
This rendering illustrates some of the water spray actions the fountain will be capable of that will allow for "water cinema."
Credit City of Jacksonville

Earlier this year the Museum of Science of History, which is Friendship Park’s next-door neighbor, announced an $80 million expansion plan, and JTA is installing new LED lighting on the Acosta Bridge, which is also close to the riverfront park. 

This rendering illustrates a planned $80 million expansion of the MOSH. A fundraising campaign is currently underway in an attempt to take visioning from concept to reality.
Credit Museum of Science and History

The bridge and fountain lights will able to be synchronized for events, said Boyer. 

And Downtown’s riverfront activation doesn’t end there. Coming Wednesday afternoon on WJCT.org: updates on plans for the Northbank, including next steps for the Jacksonville Landing.

Workers test new LED lighting in September that is being installed on the Acosta Bridge. JTA expects to have the project completed in time for the 2020 Fourth of July celebration.
Credit JTA

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.