Bartle Hall lights capable of dazzling downtown shows

The sculptures adorning the four pillars that tower above Bartle Hall can do a lot more than just spark flashbacks to images from classic sci-fi movies. These splendid structures now have the capacity to light the downtown skies with an assortment of colors and combinations, making for a spectacular display of futuristic wizardry.

Photo by Margaret Norcross

The Sky Stations have been outfitted with 50 LED lights installed as part of the $1.6 million project to repair one station that was damaged by a lighting strike last spring. The City reinstalled the station above the easternmost 300-foot pylon on Sept. 18. While repairing that structure, electricians discovered the lights needed to be updated. The decision was then made to change all the lights at once and actually save money in the process.

Insurance paid for all but $250,000 of the repair cost, and the benefits that LED lighting provides are significant. Overall, fewer lights and fixtures are needed to illuminate the Sky Stations and the power consumption is being cut by 70 percent. The test-run for this light show came in January when red was the color chosen in order to honor the outstanding season the Kansas City Chiefs had on the way to capturing the AFC West Division title.

But the entertainment value extends beyond the realm of sports and will undoubtedly benefit onlookers near the convention center, which is operated by the City of Kansas City, Missouri’s General Services Department. The computer programming allows for animated light shows and millions of choices of lighting combinations that are sure to delight spectators.

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The man behind the new lighting is Richard Welnowski, an award-winning filmmaker and high-definition video trailblazer. In 1989, Welnowski shared shared an Emmy award for technical work on one of the first all-high definition projects, a PBS film by Zbigniew Rybczynski called “The Orchestra.”

The Sky Stations are part of The One Percent for Art program that highlights the visual history of Kansas City and was created by local, regional and national artists. The 12-ton aluminum and steel sculptures were designed by R.M. Fischer and have been transforming the City’s skyline with sci-fi imagery since 1994.