Story by Lauren Horsch
Photo by Joel Venzke
“No one really liked it when it did work,” Director of Facilities Mark Chambers said. “(It was) one man’s dream.”
The Time Element was completed in 2004 after a $110,000 donation was made for its construction.
Chambers said plans to repurpose the Time Element, which lost most of its functioning power after an area nearby was struck by lightning, started in May, thanks to a push from Vice President of Finance Deb Newsom.
After the lightning strike in 2009, the Time Element had been through struggles to properly work, mainly because of lost technical support.
Chambers said the company that helped create the custom-made technology, Viacom Outdoor, was purchased by CBS Outdoor. CBS Outdoor is known for producing large LED billboards, like the ones near Merle Hay Mall, Chambers said. The company’s focus on larger scale LED lights essentially meant “all tech(nology) support” for the Time Element was lost.
After a successful attempt to make the element work in the fall of 2009, it seemed the element would continue to work, but it once again failed to display the time properly. Proposals to see if the company that does support for the scoreboard in Drake Stadium became the next step in seeing if facilities could repair it.
“(But that plan) was more than what the university wanted to spend,” Chambers said. So a cost-effective plan was created.
Chambers said in mid-June workers went in and removed the brick towers and kept the marble tops to use as benches. From there, the workers added light fixtures from the Cline Atrium, just painted a different color, to help illuminate the area at night. The only major purchase facilities had to make was the brick that fills the “eyes” near the old Time Element.
“Everything else was repurposed,” Chambers said.
Chambers said the choice to fill in those spaces, instead of keeping the planted Equisetum hyemale (commonly known as rough horsetail) seen around the area, was because the concrete generated too much heat for the plants.
The project was finished by late July. Chambers said he liked the completed project.
“[It’s] much more function then the Time Element,” he said. “[I] always felt bad that we (facilities) couldn’t make it work.”
Chambers added that there is an opportunity to add on to the space. There are plans in the works to add landscaping to the area between the new space and Olmsted Center.
He said there might even be a possibility for creating more pedestrian walkways in that area.
Beyond the repurposing of the Time Element, Chambers said facilities is working on finishing up the end markers on 25th Street and University. He said facilities broke ground after the thaw last spring, but plans for the project were tweaked, so the project wasn’t finalized until July 1.