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Light of the City

It shimmers and shines and summons travelers near and far: How the most recognizable building in Dallas stays lit.   
WORDS BY DIANA ALVAREZ

This article originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of VisitDallas The Magazine. To see the entire issue and read other features, click here.

 

Since 1977, Reunion Tower has been the centerpiece of the Dallas skyline – a 560-foot-tall building with a signature spherical top. It's long acted as a beacon for travelers, signifying the arrival to the city's busy Downtown District.   

Ask anyone of a certain age to identify the famous tower and most can accomplish without hesitation, thanks to that recognizable sphere and a certain popular show from the late 1970s. In a sweet twist of fate, the tower was completed the same year that Dallas, the TV show, premiered. The show – and its catchy opening credits – introduced Dallas, the city, to millions of viewers around the world and Reunion Tower became an international sensation.  

On a clear day, you can see it from miles away – and on a clear night, even further, thanks to the 259 custom LED light fixtures attached to its outer structure. The Ball, the tower's nickname (and social media persona), added more sophisticated lighting capabilities in 2011, replacing its original warm-white lights with a multicolored LED setup. The lighting mechanism behind those custom fixtures each contain three separate LED lights comprised of 12 nodes, totaling 36 nodes inside each fixture – that's 9,324 individual lights for those counting, totaling upward of 16.7 million possible color combinations.  

Annual holiday light shows are now part of The Ball's light-up schedule, as well as congratulatory messages for local sports teams. Occasionally, citywide initiatives call for The Ball and other signature buildings in Downtown Dallas to come together for coordinated light shows. As a group, they'll light up in matching colors for efforts like cancer awareness and Fourth of July celebrations.  

At year's end, The Ball takes top honors for ringing Dallas into the New Year. Combining its lighting abilities with a 360-degree pyrotechnic show, New Year's Eve at the tower is an over-the-top display with fireworks exploding from the top of The Ball. It's the only show of its kind in the Central time zone.  

It starts with a countdown to midnight, proudly displayed on The Ball's sphere with precise number sequencing. At the stroke of midnight, a ten-minute show begins, combining programmed lighting and more than 5,000 pyrotechnic special effects.  

Whether viewed from the streets of Downtown Dallas or on one of the nation's syndicated broadcasts, it's a spectacular start to the New Year.