Las Vegas Sun

August 1, 2021

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Diamond image helped designer see the light

The Stratosphere Tower is a diamond in the desert.

At least that's how lighting designer John Levy sees it.

"That concept has driven the lighting design. The shape of the pod on the three legs of the tower -- it created an image of the 'diamond in the desert' that worked for us, rather than some kind of obvious space theme," he said.

The 12-story pod -- the diamond -- is criss-crossed with 1 1/2 miles of fiber-optic cable with lights that change through eight different colors.

It's also capable of pulsating and chasing effects that make the pod appear to rotate.

"The criss-cross replicates the faceting of a diamond. And we have 54 strobe lights, one at each intersection. The flashes are like the colors reflecting from inside a diamond," Levy said.

That goes for the animated pulsating light show emitting from directly under the pod that's choreographed to keep step with an original musical score.

Levy said about 200 different shades and hues of color can be discerned by the naked eye, although the equipment creates about 250,000 colors.

Above the pod, 88,000 2 1/2-watt LED bulbs line the High Roller roller coaster's tracks and the 200-foot Big Shot mast, and fiber-optic cable outlines the framework of the 50-foot needle at the tower's top.

Down below, 15 7,000-watt xenon fixtures light the tower's legs.

Everything is operated by a control system that runs as many as 300 simultaneous effects.

"Depending on where you are you'll see something completely different," Levy said.

"Coming in on the freeway, driving over from Pahrump, in your hotel room or directly underneath. And we've developed a number of different light shows. We expect they'll be running eight times an hour and you'll be able to see them from anywhere in the Las Vegas Valley."

And there's no neon up there.

"With the fiber-optic cable, the light source itself is inside the building. The light emits from the sides of the cable. Then we have the LED lamps and the strobe lights," Levy said.

The price tag? $2.5 million.

The "diamond in the desert" concept was developed during a three-week brainstorming session that included artists, designers and even a sculptor.

Then the work started.

A computer-generated animated concept video was created, then the graphics, renderings and electrical and construction plans. They had to custom-make certain fixtures to make the ideas work.

It took two years from concept to completion.

"We wanted to not only emphasize the shape and form of the structure, but also to show the reflection of the excitement that's inside. Light is a powerful tool," Levy said, adding that he's no stranger to the power of light in Las Vegas.

He's done lighting for Treasure Island, the Flamingo Hilton, Bally's plaza, the Luxor water show, and the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace.

There's more --- like Buffalo Bill's Resort and Casino on the state line and the City Walk in Los Angeles and Studio Plaza at Universal City, to name just a few.

"The Stratosphere Tower is almost the culmination of what I've been doing for the past 10 years," Levy said. "It's a visionary building. A structure that will take its place in the buildings of the world. It will be the new icon of Las Vegas for the next 50 years."