CHEYENNE – When the Cheyenne City Council pledged $250,000 for a new splash pad at the downtown Depot Plaza, it came with one condition: The community would have to match those funds and raise about $300,000 for the project.

An 18-month fundraising deadline was set, but that was no issue for the people of Cheyenne. In just 10 months, the community met the fundraising goal using any means necessary: kids brought in plastic bags filled with crumpled dollars they earned doing chores; volunteers raised more than $20,000 in one day of phone banking; and the business community showed up, as usual, with about 150 local businesses and nonprofits committing funds to the project.

Councilman Jeff White said, “It took everybody to get this project finished. It just goes to show that when you have citizens, government and businesses working together with a common goal, there’s very little that you can’t accomplish.”

On Monday, city officials and staff celebrated with residents and project stakeholders as they cut the ribbon on the Depot Plaza splash pad project. Once the water was turned on, the kids and adults at the ribbon cutting joyously ran through the fountain, splashing, laughing and toting vibrant summer inflatables.

The fun began when Riley-Jayne Anderson, a 15-year-old at Cheyenne’s East High, turned on the water. Earning her title as the Cheyenne Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year, Anderson helped drive donations for the splash pad project, even selling popcorn at the air show to raise funds.

“The splash pad is something fun for the community, and it’s something for everybody – it doesn’t cost anything to come here,” Anderson said.

The new feature in the heart of Cheyenne aims to increase the quality of life for residents, and attract more residents and visitors to the downtown area, but it wasn’t an easy road to complete the project. Installing a water feature in such an old, historic location came with its own set of challenges.

The project was originally proposed in the Downtown Core Plan developed by Visit Cheyenne, Cheyenne LEADS, the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce and the Cheyenne Downtown Development Authority in 2016. It was slated for completion in the summer of 2019, but a drainage issue arose that caused the project to be delayed another year.

Ben Hornock, the city’s project representative, had to extend his contract in December to see the splash pad to completion. He did so at no cost to the city because he saw the value in the project.

Hornock said while they do a lot of projects that are geared toward adults, the splash pad will be a great attraction for kids and families. When they finished cleaning up the site Saturday, he said, “There were almost people waiting to go in.”

That was the hope of the two biggest fundraisers on the project – former City Councilman Richard Johnson and former Visit Cheyenne CEO Darren Rudloff. When the city pledged the initial $250,000, the duo dove headfirst into raising money. At the ribbon cutting, Councilman Rocky Case called their efforts on the project “heroic.”

Johnson said, “We basically fed off each other’s energy.”

Whenever a donation fell through or fundraising took a turn for the worse, the pair would lift each other up, leading Johnson to call Rudloff his “hype man.” Johnson and Rudloff exhausted every connection they had in the city to make this project happen.

Cheyenne Frontier Days made one of the final donations to reach the $300,000 goal after Johnson ran into CFD CEO Tom Hirsig at the bank and gave him the project pitch.

“This was truly a public-private partnership, a great success, where the city and the county came together from the public side and the public sector organizations and the private businesses took it the rest of the way,” Rudloff said. “Everyone came together to make this a reality, and now we have a great new community amenity that we can all enjoy.”

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.

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