Delbert J. Haff Fountain Renovation



Winning Team

David T. Ford, PE, RRC, RWC, LEED AP
Laurie Woods, BPAC
Christopher Roberts
Michael Haake, PE, ENV SP
Geoffrey Hose, PE
Arunkumar Zanje
Dan Brown, PE, LEED AP, ENV SP
David Brown

Delbert J. Haff Fountain Renovation

Kansas City

Kansas City locals call their city the Paris of the Plains for reasons unknown to most of the world. The City of Kansas City, Missouri was planned much liked Paris, with miles of boulevards and parkways connecting parks and green spaces. Kansas City’s first fountains date back to the late 1800s and the City’s love affair with fountains has flourished ever since, as they are now known as the "City of Fountains."

The Delbert J. Haff Circle Fountain at the entrance of Swope Park was built in 1940 and equipped with jets in 1966. More pool or pond than fountain, the basin was constructed with depths that varied from 28 inches on the east end to 42 inches on the west end. The shape of the fountain is unusually large, with dimensions spanning 183 feet wide and 80 feet long. The concrete structure of the fountain was crumbling with numerous cracks and spalls. 

The structural distress, however, was not the Kansas City Parks & Recreation Department’s (KC Parks) only motivation for engaging Walter P Moore. Their primary concern was the lack of a functional fountain. The fountain had been leaking thousands of gallons per day. Walter P Moore was asked to assess the broken fountain and bring the city landmark back to a functioning state. 

The original fountain structure was constructed with concrete floor and walls, which showed numerous locations of concrete distress. The concrete basin joints, or the wall-to-floor transition also had the original joint filler materials. In addition, the floor slab had settled and cracked, and KC Parks feared that there were voids under the slab. It was unclear whether the fountain leaked through the cracks, joints, piping connections, or all three.

Walter P Moore's Diagnostics engineers measured the original basin volume to be 223,000 gallons. Our team did our own daily measurements and calculations of the basin water depth. We accounted for water evaporation, normal fountain water operational loss, and calculated a significant water loss of 7,500 gallons per day.

KC Parks sought to not only fix the leaks in the fountain, but also to modernize it and make its capacity low-volume. With these design goals in mind, Walter P Moore served as Engineer of Record and enhanced project value by supplementing our Diagnostics team with our Structural and Civil specialists. We led a multi-disciplined design team comprised of mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fountain engineers, as well as landscape architects. We worked closely with KC Parks to create a new fountain design and water depth with a sloped basin and central trench. The original floor slab was removed and new piping and subgrade materials were installed. A heavily reinforced concrete slab was designed with water stops and expansion and control joints to limit cracking.

To further ensure no leakage, a two-coat cementitious waterproofing system was applied to the new basin slab and original fountain walls (which were sounded and partially patched as needed). Our design changed the overall fountain basin to less than half of its original volume. It went from 223,000 gallons to 111,500 gallons, thus creating a more sustainable fountain that is leak-free, wastes no water, and needs less water to operate.