'It's lit': Arch lights return with state-of-the-art system after a month of going dark

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The system is expected to be brighter, reduce overall energy and flare for birds.

Author: Diamond Palmer
Published: 7:36 PM CST December 19, 2023
Updated: 7:50 PM CST December 19, 2023

ST. LOUIS — After a month of being dark, the St. Louis Gateway Arch is lit up with a brand new, state-of-the-art LED lighting system.

The system is expected to be brighter, reduce overall energy and flare for birds.

Michael OKeefe with Technical Productions Inc. said he is the brains behind the new light upgrades. He worked with the Gateway Foundation, the National Park Service and numerous other lighting companies to make the change happen. Reed Burkett Lighting Design, Elation Lighting and Electronic Theatre Controls also helped with the project.

"This a project of my dreams," OKeefe said. "The Arch was lit prior to our upgrade. It was lit with very powerful lights that were not dimmable and very difficult to control and a fixed color temperature," OKeefe said.

The new design includes 72 LED lights in four pits, according to OKeefe.

The lights will be lit each day automatically based on the sunset gradually from the bottom to the top over about 30 seconds. They will be controlled by a computer system designed by Electronic Theatre Controls, based out of Madison, Wisconsin.

OKeefe said the installation process took place over the last several weeks. The biggest challenge was the weather as crews replaced the old lights.

"When we swapped those out we have to readjust the mounts, readjust the power, which is great, but then we have to reinstall the fixtures and focus. We spent several evenings focusing," OKeefe.

OKeefe said most importantly, the new lights will not only make the Arch more bright but also reduce a flare for birds migrating through the Mississippi flyway.

Jeremy Sweat serves as the superintendent at Gateway Arch National Park, he's been in the role for two years and said the project has been a "long time coming."

"It's [lighting system] is able to be dialed in more exactly with less spill over and light pollution. It's going to be better year-round for birds [not only during] fly season, but when it can mess with wildlife migration and behavior," Sweat added.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said birds can become disoriented by lights and circle structures for extended periods.

"We've gone from 7,000 watts on the old ones down to 1,200 watts on the LED fixtures. We believe we reduced the power bill to 40-50%," OKeefe said.

Sweat said it's too early to tell if they will be able to adjust the schedule of turning off the lights for bird migration. The Gateway Foundation has commissioned a short film by St. Louis artist Cami Thomas to mark the moment.


TrendForce 2023 Global LED Lighting Market Analysis
Publication dates: February 10, 2023; July 31, 2023
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