One minute before midnight, every December 31st, hundreds of thousands of revelers in New York City’s Times Square are joined by millions of television viewers to watch the New Year’s Eve Ball make its iconic descent to ring in the New Year. It is a time-honored tradition that has been celebrated for over a century, but in the fall of 2008, the ball got a much-needed facelift, thanks to Hudson Scenic Studio.
Working in conjunction with Focus Lighting and Waterford Crystal, Hudson was responsible for the 2009 Times Square ball’s structural engineering, mechanical design, systems integration, rigging and lighting equipment attachment, creating a ball twice the size and three times as bright as the previous year’s. The current 12-ft-diameter ball weighs nearly 12,000 lbs, is decorated with 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles, is lit by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs and took more than 5,000 worker hours to complete. An article by American Welding Society Learning calculated that over 3,000 of those hours were “put in by metalworkers, welders, fitters, finishers, machinists and assemblers,” making it unsurprising that the ball earned the American Welding Society’s Extraordinary Welding Award in 2014.
The award celebrates technical design or outstanding development in welded fabrication, welding excellence in construction, fabrication and manufacturing. It is awarded to those welded structures whose purpose has importance in, or influence on, history (Previous winners of the award include the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and the Georgia Aquarium.)
The project was overseen by Hudson’s foreman and chief engineer Roger Bardwell, an AWS Certified Welding Inspector and Professional Engineer. More than five dozen employees on Hudson’s shop floor participated in the ball’s construction, which included forming its shape with an aluminum structure of triangular faces, laying 180 triangular frames made of 304 stainless steel tubes on top of the skeleton to hold the ball’s LED light fixtures and electronics, and bolting four Waterford Crystals onto each frame to create a sparkly but smooth “skin.” This ensured the ball’s enhanced color capabilities and video display effects without compromising its structural sustainability, not to mention its increased energy efficiency. All this was done with various viewpoints in mind, ensuring equally spectacular visuals whether watching it in person from the ground or on television.
Hudson had actually made two previous New Year’s Eve Balls, one in 2000 to ring in the new millennium, and another in 2007 to celebrate the tradition’s 100th anniversary.
After the ball had been completed and tested at Hudson, the next challenge was actually getting the ball onto the roof of One Times Square. The ball’s skeleton had to be disassembled into 3 component weldments, which were individually lifted to the rooftop using window washer hoists, and finally reconstructed around its pole before the ball could make its New Year’s Eve debut.
Click here for more about the 2007 Hudson-built anniversary ball and the history of the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop.