After the final section was inspected and calibrated, employees at Danville’s Watchfire Signs posed for pictures next to a piece of the world’s largest video screen before it was shipped to Las Vegas on Friday, October 25.
The digital sign company just wrapped up a yearlong reboot of the 1,300-foot-long, 90-foot-wide LED canopy that’s suspended 90 feet above the pedestrian mall in vintage Las Vegas, a major feature of the Fremont Street Experience.
Just over a year ago, the Danville company landed the $30 million job to rebuild the iconic structure that’s touted as the world’s largest video screen, featuring free six-minute light shows every hour in the evenings.
About 11 months ago, Watchfire crews began assembling the first of eight sections of the massive LED structure at the company’s production plant in Danville, shipping one section at a time to Vegas for installation.
“It’s been pretty smooth. We hit every single milestone,” said Kim Weninger, Watchfire’s chief operating officer.
The company gave its Vegas client a project completion schedule in September 2018 with exact shipping dates for each section.
“It’s always a little tricky,” Weninger said. “So we did that way in advance, and we hit every single one. We came in on time and under budget, so it was a great job for us.”
With plenty of exposure, too.
About 22 million people a year watch the canopy light shows in the five-block historic downtown Vegas entertainment district, according to Fremont officials.
Originally built in the mid-1990s to draw more tourists back to Vegas’ original casino hot spot, the canopy displays a nightly light show featuring large animations, integrated video feeds and synchronized music. In 2004, it underwent a $17 million LED upgrade, but Watchfire’s reboot has delivered a screen up to seven times brighter than the original and four times sharper, making it vivid even during daylight hours, according to Watchfire officials.
The previous canopy had one-quarter the number of LEDs of this new version’s 16.3 million pixels and 49 million LEDs.
Crews in Vegas are currently installing the seventh section, with the eighth and final piece going up soon after that.
In conjunction with a job with a scale unlike anything Watchfire had ever done, Weninger said the company gave away three free trips to Vegas for employees.
Then, this past summer, every worker on the two shifts in Danville signed their name with a Sharpie on one piece of one section of the sign.
“Early on, that was one of the first fun things we did,” said Carol Wade, Watchfire’s senior director of marketing.
Being a part of the Fremont project created a tremendous amount of local pride and excitement for the team in Danville, Wade said, which was evident when the final section was finished.
“They were taking selfies with it,” Wade said.