August 24, 2006 — An official lighting ceremony for the newly renovated Block U will take place on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006 during halftime of the Ute football game versus TCU. The new Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights on the large concrete symbol of the University of Utah will be officially turned on “live” during an appearance on the field by higher education philanthropists Ira A. and Mary Lou Fulton.
Earlier this year, the Fultons challenged others to open their pocketbooks in an effort to save the Block U symbol. During this year’s Founders Day Celebration, Ira A. and Mary Lou Fulton declared they would match each individual donation from alumni, faculty, staff and students of up to $1,000 for renovation of the Block U. The campaign achieved its goal of raising $400,000 to cover renovation costs and raised an additional $250,000 which will be used to fund student scholarships.
The Block U has become an iconic symbol of the University over the years, even gaining international exposure during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
Some quick facts about the Block U:
- Construction crews will place 70 cubic yards of concrete in 4-inch thick slabs to cover the 5,000 feet of surface area.
- There is steel rebar in the concrete mix.
- There will be 240 light fixtures with 18 LED”s per light fixture on the completed Block U, with alternating red and white lights.
- The light fixtures are flush-mounted with the concrete.
- There will now be 240 points of control for the Block U, meaning that each light fixture will be able to be controlled individually.
- The lighting system will have more types of control than it previously had- lights will have a dimming feature (i.e. a dimmer switch), allowing the lights to be flashed at higher/lower intensities, and the lights can race around/chase each other (like Christmas lights).
- The lighting system will be controlled through a wireless system via an antenna connected to the Merrill Engineering Building.
- Construction crews are filling in and sloping around the Block U with dirt and gravel to stop erosion. Crews have installed a diversion barrier above the Block U and a fairly elaborate drainage system. Runoff water will come from the top of the hill, filter through a gravel base behind the diversion barrier and run through the drainage system and down the sides of the Block U without causing erosion underneath or on top of the Block U itself.
- Crews will use a “blower truck” to bring dirt in to the site-essentially, a truck will come loaded with dirt and workers will use an air compressor and a hose to blow the dirt up the hill.
- Construction crews faced the challenge of placing the concrete on a 45-degree angle. The crews began the pours at the bottom of the Block U rather than the top, using concrete mix with a low enough slump that it wouldn’t slide downhill.
- Construction crews built wooden steps all the way around the Block U (both inside and outside perimeters) and installed a cable handrail to give workers better access to the site and increase safety.
- Crews will landscape and reseed the site once the renovated Block U is complete.
- Renovation on the Block U is expected to be completed in time for the first University of Utah home football game on September 9th.