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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Bonfire Memorial to shine anew

Bonfire+Memorial
Photo by Photo by Jena Floyd
Bonfire Memorial

Lighting renovation project at the Bonfire Memorial on Texas A&M’s campus will ensure the memorial shines for years to come, as old wiring and outdated LED’s are replaced with modern electronics. 
A $220,000 project to rework the memorial’s lighting is set to be completed by the end of the month. The Bonfire Memorial is located on the east side of A&M campus, standing as a tribute to the 12 students who died in the Bonfire Collapse of 1999. The History Walk leading up to the memorial represents the 90 years of bonfire before the tragedy, with a small amber light shining for each year between 1909 and 1999 that Bonfire burned. 
When the Bonfire Memorial was built in 2004, it was equipped with first-generation LED lights. Since then, the lights have become outdated and difficult to find. An initiative by the University Art Galleries in cooperation with the SSC, the university’s contracted maintenance company, is now working towards solving this problem. 
Cathy Hastedt, University Art Galleries director who spearheaded the project, said the improvements were first suggested last year after an attempt to refinish the bronze portals.
“Last fall we determined that the Bonfire Memorial bronze portals needed to be refinished,” Hastedt said. “We hired an art conservation company to come survey the memorial and suggest treatment.”
Hastedt said they ran into some technical problems along the road however, which further complicated their progress. 
“Unfortunately, it was determined that the wiring for the down lights in the portals were loosely hanging within the bronzes and that the heat generated by hot wax treatment would likely destroy the wiring,” Hastedt said.
This led the Art Galleries to eventually consult with the SSC about rewiring the portals. That was when the suggestion to replace the actual lights came up.
“SSC is responsible for maintaining the lights at the Bonfire Memorial, so at the time we were discussing the rewiring of the portals, they suggested replacing the existing lights as well,” Hastedt said.
Bill Cox, the assistant director of facilities at the University Center, oversees joint projects between the university and the SSC. Cox said he was approached by the University Art Galleries about the project during the summer.
“They came to us and really just said they wanted to do some upgrades at the Bonfire Memorial,” Cox said. “From my experience, project-wise, it was a really smooth project and a really smooth process.”
Cox and the SSC worked with Hastedt and the University Art Galleries to find a more cost-effective LED lighting system. The previous first-generation LED lights are being replaced with much more efficient, fifth-generation LED lights.
Cox added the color of the new lights will better preserve the architects’ original design for the memorial.
“From what I’ve seen so far, we’ve been able to accomplish all these things that have the same look and feel as what was originally intended,” Cox said.
Cody Buczyna, service and bonfire remembrance committee chair for Traditions Council, agreed the change needed to happen because the previous lights were becoming obsolete. Traditions Council facilitates the annual Bonfire remembrance ceremony in November. 
“We as the Traditions Council think it’s a great project,” Buczyna said. “I know especially the past couple years they’ve had a lot of trouble updating the lights as they were getting hard to find and were expensive if we did find them.”
Buczyna also said the improvements should make the memorial easier to spot during the night.
“When we’re hosting fans from other schools and things of that nature. It’ll be a more attractive place and you’ll be able to see it better when you’re driving down Texas or University,” Buczyna said. “It’s definitely a very special place for Aggies.”
The replacement of the lights will be complete by Friday. The project aims to have all improvements complete by Nov. 1.

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