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Janesville takes stock of renewal; water feature needs a name

Janesville takes stock of renewal; water feature needs a name

It doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s in danger of becoming “The IWF.”

That’s how City Manager Mark Freitag referred to Janesville’s new “interactive water feature” as he spoke to a crowd of about 200 Wednesday evening.

“Folks, we’ve got to come up with a better name than ‘the interactive water feature.’ That’s just too municipal,” Freitag told the crowd.

He was standing next to the splash pad that recently became functional on the east bank of the Rock River between the Court Street and Milwaukee Street bridges.

A handful of children shivered as he spoke, as they had gotten themselves thoroughly drenched in the water spouting from the concrete pad, which features timed sprays of water illuminated by colored lights and accompanied by music.

Organizers of the public-private ARISE downtown renewal project don’t like “splash pad.”

On the ARISEnow website, they say: “It’s like a splash pad but without that toy-like, playground feel. The fountain gives artistic flair to downtown Janesville’s new town square, especially the glistening silver arches at the fountain’s center.”

“Town square” is the name of the space that includes the, um, IWF, as well as lawns, gardens, a floating dock, and two blocks of River Street that will become a “festival street” that can be closed off to make an even bigger space for larger events.

The four-legged, stainless steel, 11-foot, 6-inch sculpture in the center of the “water feature” also doesn’t have a name.

Tim Weber, who has put in hundreds of volunteer hours on the project, said it’s an artwork he helped design with the designers of the, um, IWF.

“The neat thing about this is, it’s free,” said Weber, who envisioned parents sitting and watching their children cavort in the water.

Named or not, people soon will begin a tradition of taking selfies with the sculpture, officials predicted Wednesday.

Forward Janesville President John Beckord said wedding parties and graduates will have their pictures taken there in the years ahead.

The festivities included two ribbon-cuttings. The first was for the J.P. Cullen Memorial Pavilion, named for the late J.P. Cullen, who worked with his family’s construction company for more than 60 years before his death last year.

The pavilion is a low, concrete, roofed stage. Let history record that the first band to play there was The Gary Band, which did justice to a lot of pop songs from the past 40-plus years.

J.P.’s son Mark Cullen spoke while family members stood by. Cullen told of his father’s love for Janesville and its hardworking people.

All three businessmen who spoke represented some of Janesville’s biggest companies. They said they wouldn’t be where they are today without their hardworking employees, and the ARISE project owes much to hardworking volunteers.

“I think the work ethic comes from this community,” Cullen said. “We’re very, very fortunate.”

The second ribbon-cutting honored the donors who made the IWF possible, Mark and Kathy Bush and the workers of their company, Data Dimensions, and David and Judy Baum and the employees of SSI Technologies.

This is not the end of dedication ceremonies in this project. Oct. 26 is the target date for the next one, to celebrate the re-opening of the revamped River Street.

Children playing in the IWF on Wednesday didn’t care about its lack of a name. They just ran and splashed and squealed to their hearts’ content.

Maybe someday, they will take their graduation pictures here, or their wedding pictures, and remember the days of carefree play.

“This project is going to impact people’s lives for decades,” Cullen said, “which is a pretty cool thing.”

And as for naming the interactive water feature, JoLynn Burden, the ARISEnow director of development and community engagement, said officials are considering a suggestion that the community be invited to submit ideas.

September 12, 2018 by Janesville Gazette