The designer of the New Year's Eve ball reveals its secrets
Jim O'Leary has spent the past 13 years helping craft the 12,000 pound crystal ball that descends on New York City at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Day.
O'Leary, the director of design at Waterford Crystals, spoke with us about the work, materials, that goes into the iconic Times Square New Year's eve ball, as well as its message. iconic Times Square New Year's Eve ball. What's the most exciting part of being involved with the New Year's Eve ball dropping? Being involved with Times Square on New Year's Eve ...t. For the millions there, and the billions who tune in around the world for the very, very special event, I'm honored. And it takes my breath away to be back in New York City, watching the art and technical masterpiece coming down the seven-foot-pole. It's phenomenal.
How long does it take to build? We have to go back to late 1998 for that answer. Waterford Crystal had never undertaken an outdoor instillation like this before. We had no idea if the crystal would stand up to the heat, cold, and wind. It was an extraordinary journey that took a full 12 months, from start to finish to design and build. Putting it together was an enormous task. It was a six-foot wide ball then.
What's this year's ball like? It's 12-feet in diameter, weighs about 12,000 lbs, has 2,688 crystal panels, and more than 32,000 LED lights. Now the ball stays up year-round. This ball is apart of a 10 year series, and this is the final year. Each New Year's we celebrate with a different sentiment such as health, happiness, and this one is the theme of peace, which we find very appropriate in this day and age.
How does Waterford make it clear that the panels symbolize peace? We use the easily recognizable, universal symbol of peace: a white dove.
How much does the ball cost? There's so much recognition with the event, that it's difficult to put a cost on it. The ball is valued at way over $1 million, but it doesn't matter to us if it's $2 million or $3 million, the value is in the participation in the event.
What materials are used in the design of the ball? From a technical point of view, the ball is a geodesic design. It has triangular panels made of fine crystal. The shape of the panels won't allow the wind to crush it. The ball's frame is made from light weight aluminum, and the inside of the ball is filled with LED lights. We know update about 200 panels every year, on top of the Times Square building. The ball has gone through wind tunnel testing to ensure it can withstand the elements.
How is Waterford part of commemorating Dick Clark this year? We will have a panel for Dick Clark, with the three doves cut into the panel and we'll engrave Dick's name, God rest his soul, in honor of him and what he has done for Times Square and for music in the United States and around the world.
What's something the average person doesn't know about the Times Square ball? It's the only fine-crystal outdoor installation anywhere in the world. When it gets a little dark in Times Square, you can see it year-round. It's just gorgeous. The ball is iconic, and not just for the United States, and I think something people need to think more about moving forward is the ball's theme. Let there be peace. We're proud Waterford Crystal is a part of that, and how lovely that we're going to be celebrating peace this New Year's and hopefully that's a peace that will rest with in us for the whole year, and for the years to come. It's a great way to unite people in a common goal around the world.