Omaha's Ballantyne Strong designed and is producing the high-powered LED lights that will shine from atop New York City's One World Trade Center when the building opens in 2014.
The twin beams will revolve horizontally, like a beacon from a lighthouse, 1,776 feet above the city, the company said. They are intended to symbolize resilience, democracy and freedom by illuminating the skies above where the World Trade Center's twin towers were destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001.
The light will be visible in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, said Jordan Barowitz, director of external affairs for the Durst Organization, which is developing the property with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He said the tower and lights will be “the most noticeable architectural expression on New York's skyline.”
Ballantyne announced Friday that its Strong Entertainment Lighting division won a contract to provide the beacons on top of the building's 408-foot antenna, and the lighting that will illuminate the antenna tower itself in colors that can be changed to celebrate holidays and events.
“With the tragedy at the World Trade Center, to be awarded something that's going to be so visible not only in the United States but around the world, it's tremendous for our company and for Nebraska,” said Chris Stark, Ballantyne's senior vice president and chief operating officer.
Counting its antenna tower, the One World Trade Center will be the tallest building in North America; not counting it, that distinction still belongs to Chicago's Willis Tower, formerly called the Sears Tower. Even without the 408-foot antenna tower, at 1,368 feet, the building will be more than twice as tall as Nebraska's tallest building, the 634-foot One First National Center.
The 104-story, $3.9 billion building will have 3 million square feet of office space and three observation decks.
The One World Trade Center project will be the most visible yet for Strong Entertainment Lighting, which also produced the beacon atop the pyramid-shaped Luxor hotel and casino in Las Vegas and has provided lighting for NASA's space shuttle program and for Pleasure Island at Walt Disney World.
Ballantyne Strong's lighting work is less well-known than its main business. The company, once one of the leading producers of film projectors, transitioned to providing digital cinema projection equipment and servicing it through its 24/7 Network Operations Center in Omaha. Last year, Ballantyne installed more than 550 digital projection systems in 45 days for Marcus Theatres.
“We believe there is a significant, as yet untapped, opportunity to reinvigorate our lighting business, a 'diamond in the rough' that we as an organization have not leveraged in recent years,” President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Cavey said Friday.
The company did not disclose the value of the trade center contract, but Stark called it a multimillion-dollar project.
Stark said the LED technology behind the lights was originally manufactured in Omaha, and manufacture of the light assemblies already has begun at several U.S. facilities. The pieces will be delivered late this year and early next year according to the builders' regimented time frame.
While Strong employees won't be installing the lights — that requires people qualified to work at great heights — the company will be performing some preliminary assembly on the ground level.
The beacon assembly will include 264 LED lights, each within a “reflector module” that magnifies its brightness. The building is being designed to the LEED Gold standard of environmental efficiency, and Stark said use of the LED lighting will complement that. A rotating mirror will send the light revolving out from the antenna tower.
“It's a one-of-a-kind, unique application of our LED technology,” Stark said.
“Everybody is so pleased to have this awarded to our company,” he said. “All the work that's gone in through the years has really culminated into the award of this contract.”
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