Boise Centre lights up with color at night

Teya Vitu//February 6, 2018

Boise Centre lights up with color at night

Teya Vitu//February 6, 2018

A continuous, colorful light show in now a nightly attraction outside Boise Centre. Photo courtesy of Warren Lassen.
A continuous, colorful light show is now a nightly attraction outside Boise Centre. Photo courtesy of Warren Lassen.

A touch of big-city glitz and even a tiny nod to Las Vegas is lighting up the Boise Centre. The venerable meeting space now presents splashes of nighttime color on its outer wall between Grove Plaza and Front Street.

The LED visual art display light show started Feb. 1 and will be presented nightly to animate a large blank wall on a popular thoroughfare.

During winter, the constantly changing lighted color schemes will play from 5 p.m. to  1 or 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. The hours will be adjusted as the days grow longer with the morning “architainment” ceasing once sunrise is early enough, said Chris Morrison, audiovisual services manager at the Boise Centre.

Architainment  is entertainment incorporated into architecture, in the words of Steve Johnson, CEO of HP Marketing, a representative for Martin Exterior PixLine, the producer of the LED equipment.

“It’s an art wall,” Johnson said. “This is all about creating a feeling and an emotion.”

The $220,000 display involves 700 feet of linear LED fixtures, nearly all of them set in existing grooves in the Boise Centre wall.

The fixtures protrude only 3 inches from the wall and are nearly imperceptible during the day.  At night, however, they pulsate in an ever-changing array of color synchronized with music broadcast on speakers attached to lightposts – or with a conspicuous blue-and –orange theme on certain sporting days.

“The city is dotted with art all over,” Boise Centre spokeswoman Mary-Michael Rodgers said. “We added our own new visual art display. It’s a new best place to have your photo taken.”

Cameras were out for the first night of Boise Centre's new visual art display. Photo courtesy of Warren Lassen.
Cameras were out for the first night of Boise Centre’s new visual art display. Photo courtesy of Warren Lassen.

First Thursday wanderers seeing the light display for the first time Feb. 1 reacted enthusiastically, with many people posing for selfies with the lights as a backdrop.

The fixtures run the 168-foot length of the building. The light system starts 12 feet above the walkway and continues to the roof, at some points a 40-foot vertical line. The LED strips vary in length.

Boise Centre has the first Martin Exterior PixLine system in the United States, though Martin, a Weston, Fla., lighting solution company, has installed several in Europe, Johnson said.


Solving the problem of a large, blank wall

The colors change constantly with Boise Centre's new visual art display. Photo by Teya Vitu.
The colors change constantly with Boise Centre’s new visual art display. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The LED display was not publicized until the closing days of January but has been in the works for two to nearly four years.  The first thought for wall decoration was a mural, but Boise Centre Executive Director Pat Rice said that was quickly scrapped.

The visual art display idea originated a couple years ago as Rice wandered through the neon light tunnel linking United Airlines concourse at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Boise Centre had already been challenged by the Capital City Development Corp.  to animate its wall, which would become more monolithic with the removal of a retail space during convention center renovation.

The Grove Plaza and the walkways leading to it are owned by CCDC. All of the development at Grove Plaza in the past four years has been a tightly choreographed collaboration among the owners of The Grove/CenturyLink Arena, the Clearwater building, Boise Centre, CCDC and the city of Boise and others.

The recent development includes construction of the Clearwater building and adjoining Boise Centre East expansion along with the Boise Centre concourse that is attached to the privately owned arena and crosses CCDC’s airspace, and the reconstruction of the Grove Plaza itself.

“The group all agreed the plain wall was an opportunity to do something fun and exciting to activate that part of the plaza,” said Doug Woodruff, CCDC’s project manager of capital improvements. “It will help illuminate and improve safety and also add another landmark to downtown and help connect BoDo to Grove Plaza.”

The $220,000 visual art display was budgeted within the $11 million renovation of the original Boise Centre building, now called Boise Centre West. This included replacing the tiered auditorium Summit Room with a downstairs small ballroom and upstairs executive board room, installing an escalator and renovating the lobby and bathrooms.

In all, Boise Centre spent $47.5 million to build Boise Centre East and the concourse and to renovate Boise Centre West.

Rice translated his O’Hare experience into somehow illuminating the wall. Morrison, the Boise Centre’s audio visual person, took the ball and ran with it.

“We can step this up a little better,” Morrison recalled.

Morrison conferred with Noah Bard at the Garden City office of Production Services International, an audio, lighting, video, staging firm, who pointed Harrison to the Martin Exterior PixLine product.

Production Services designed the installed the Boise Centre system and Lea Electric LLC of Boise did the electrical work.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at  2:21 p.m. on Feb. 5 with a correction on the name of Chris Morrison.