The men behind Pittsburgh's New Year's Eve ball
Rob Gratton, of Integrated Theater Systems, puts the final touches on preparations of "The Future of Pittsburgh" ball. It weighs approximately 1,000 pounds and is 6 feet, 7 inches in diameter and will touch a height of 74 feet above the roof of Penn Avenue Place in the 60-second countdown to the New Year of 2013.
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When you're watching "The Future of Pittsburgh" ball rise tonight at the Highmark First Night Pittsburgh Celebration, send some thanks to Chris Ruffner and Rob Gratton.
It'll be their job to push the button that sends the 1,000-pound globe aloft -- and that button is on the snow-covered roof of Penn Avenue Place, beneath the 74-foot pole. They'll have been on duty since 5:30 p.m.
Don't worry -- they have hot chocolate.
This is the sixth year of the ball's ascent, the capstone to Pittsburgh's New Year's Eve celebration. Built by Technique Architectural Products in Wilkinsburg, the sphere features 48 surface strobe lights, 72 inner lights and 1,100 LEDs.
At 11:59, the ascent of "The Future of Pittsburgh" hits cruising speed at just under 1 mph -- a decent pace for a metaphor that is unabashedly intentional.
"It's a positive outlook -- rising as opposed to falling," Pittsburgh Cultural Trust marketing manager Derek Scalzott said.
The ball's rise will be followed by fireworks fired from Penn Avenue Place's roof. Beforehand, visitors can see magic shows, several brass bands and a parade led by YouTube's "Pittsburgh Dad."
Built in 2006, the ball is partially constructed from recycled aluminum and repurposed plastic Coke bottles. The two halves of the sphere spend most of the year in twin storage lockers on the roof.
This year, workers found the sphere had developed faulty wiring, Highmark facilities manager Wayne Malovitz said. Since the globe is too heavy to move downstairs for repairs, welders set up a tent on the roof to make the modifications.
It's now back in working order, capable of displaying 64 billion different colors.
So enjoy. Before long, Mr. Ruffner and Mr. Gratton will be wrestling it back into its case -- another task they've found is better done by hand.
First Published December 31, 2012 1:36 pm