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The RiverFront in Downtown Omaha Gets a Makeover and Lighting Facelift

March 19, 2024

Like so many waterfront cities, Omaha was looking for ways to revitalize its downtown parkland in an effort to create an aesthetically pleasing destination point.

The city’s vision was to transform its three underutilized parks into a beautiful, entertaining recreational hotspot along the scenic Missouri River.

What became known as the Omaha River Front Revitalization Project encompassed 72 acres of parkland that served as a gateway between Omaha’s historic Old Market and north downtown area. The goal of the $325 million project, which was made possible through a public-private partnership, was to connect Gene Leahy Mall, Heartland of America Park, and Lewis and Clark Landing to create a welcoming, accessible recreational area that spurs economic growth by bridging to the downtown area.

The design team struck a balance between creating a modern, safe and inviting environment while preserving some of the parks’ iconic structures and protecting the flourishing native landscaping.

The design and vision for the rehabilitated riverfront came from architectural and engineering firms from across the country, including OJB Landscape Architecture, Atelier Ten, Safdie Rabines Architects, RSM Design, Alvine Engineering, Fluidity, HDR, Kiewit Infrastructure Group, Gensler, Miller Electric, and Applied Ecological Services. Such intentional design resulted in the space featuring a number of unique park spaces and structures. These include two expansive playgrounds, a Performance Pavilion, the Cascades – a multi-pool, interactive water attraction, The Skate Ribbon, which accommodates both ice skating and roller skating, and the Farnam Pier, which provides magnificent views of the river and the downtown skyline.

The Skate Ribbon, Omaha

Joshua Spitzig, IALD, Director at Atelier Ten in New York, said, “It was important to us that the pier be visible from many vantage points at night. It acts as a visual anchor at the edge of the park with several paths leading straight to it, so the lighting had to be magnetic and iconic. We needed the ability to program many specific colors with no weird shadows, so we knew we wanted a quad-chip fixture with great color mixing. We also needed the fixtures to be high output, compact in size, and sturdy enough to stand up to the rough Nebraska weather.”

Joshua Spitzig, IALD, Director at Atelier Ten in New York

Drumming Up A Lighting Solution

According to Spitzig, the design team mocked up one of the pier’s giant ribs for a shootout to compare the performance of various brands. Ultimately, the team determined that it was the Dyna Drum EO color fixtures from Acclaim Lighting that outperformed the other brands in every aspect. Dyna Drum EOs are high output, compact outdoor-rated LED floodlights featuring a unique Spectrum Four color system. Acclaim’s Spectrum Technology offers more usable colors, including pastels, dedicated whites, and dynamic white options, all in the same system.

While the Dyna Drum EO color fixtures were specified for the pier’s main rib structure, Dyna Drum HO color fixtures were used to shoot light horizontally through the lower trusses beneath the pier’s deck. These fixtures are high output, outdoor rated, LED floodlights featuring an internal 100-277VAC power supply, onboard DMX+RDM driver, and Aria wireless DMX technology inside for precise lighting control without the need for additional hardware. The Dyna Drum fixtures also come with a 10º narrow beam standard, with optional quick-change spread lenses for wider applications.

Farnam Pier’s giant ribs, bathed in purple light from Dyna Drum EO color fixtures

“We have had a lot of good experiences using Dyna Drums over the years. I’ve found them to be a great balance of performance and value,” said Spitzig. “The fixtures have been very dependable, and they have a lot of options. That makes them easy to specify.”

Joshua Spitzig, IALD, Director at Atelier Ten in New York

To complete the lighting of the Farnam Pier, 96 Dyna Drum EO RGBW fixtures were used to light the ribs on the structure, while 8 Dyna Drum HO G2 RGBW fixtures were installed at the bulkhead under the pier.

Farnam Pier in Omaha

“The coverage of the pier was even better than we had hoped,” said Spitzig. “From some angles, the ribs look like they are almost glowing from the inside.”

The RGBW Dyna Drums were also critical to the programming, which was inspired by the colors of specific flowers and plants that OJB used throughout the park. Atelier Ten programmed seven of these flower-inspired presets, one for each night of the week.

At the Skate Ribbon, the main objective was to provide very high light levels for safety reasons. The lights had to be individually dimmable and needed flexible optics so that they could be changed in the field during aiming if needed.

Spitzig explained, “Due to the stringent light level requirements at the Skate Ribbon, we needed fixtures that we could trust to give us complete coverage of the skating surface, both for when the surface is gray concrete for roller skating and when it is white ice for ice skating. After conducting extensive photometric calculations and in-person tests, we found the Dyna Drum HO fixtures were by far the best option because of their output and light quality. Knowing that they are also very dependable outside in the elements made the spec an easy choice.”

Joshua Spitzig, IALD, Director at Atelier Ten in New York
The Skate Ribbon in Omaha

The optical system and high-power LEDs provide exceptional output and efficacy, as they come with a narrow 5º beam standard with optional quick-change spread lenses for wider applications. With their intense output, these represent Acclaim’s brightest floodlights, providing up to 16,418 lumens and more than 1,101,000 center candela.

Sixty Dyna Drum HO G2 3000K fixtures were mounted in pairs to a custom pole structure that rings the inside of the skate path.

“The lighting from the Dyna Drums makes the Skate Ribbon one of the most noticeable features of the park,” said Spitzig. “It is always a center of energy long after dark, thanks to the Dyna Drum fixtures.”

Omaha’s riverfront now stands as a shining example of how intentional design, innovative lighting solutions, and a commitment to blending tradition with modernity can transform urban spaces into dynamic, welcoming, and economically thriving destinations.

More information about the Riverfront in Omaha available here

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