Coming soon to downtown Las Vegas: A Danville-made canopy

Coming soon to downtown Las Vegas: A Danville-made canopy

DANVILLE — The future's looking a lot brighter for a Danville digital sign company that landed a $30 million project to rebuild an iconic Las Vegas light-show attraction that draws millions to the city's downtown every year.

Watchfire Signs beat out worldwide competition with its innovative proposal to reboot the giant LED canopy that's 1,500 feet long and suspended 90 feet above a pedestrian mall in vintage Vegas, in an area known as the Fremont Street Experience.

"It's been hugely energizing for our team," said Steve Harriott, chief executive officer of Watchfire, which designs and builds outdoor LED signs and digital billboards. "For us in small-town Midwest to win a job like this was really exciting for our team."

Headquartered on Maple Street in Danville, the company began manufacturing electric signs in 1932 and LED signs in 1998 and has more than 60,000 Watchfire LED signs in operation worldwide.

It competed against more than a dozen other companies for Las Vegas' Viva Vision upgrade, which Harriott said dwarfs previous projects in physical size.

"The proposal process for the project was the most rigorous in our 86-year history, and the project itself is among the most demanding, as it is located in one of the most challenging environments imaginable," he said.

Originally built in the mid-1990s to help draw more visitors back to Vegas' original casino hot spot, Viva Vision displays a nightly light show featuring large animations, integrated video feeds and synchronized music. In 2004, it underwent a $17 million LED upgrade.

Next year, it will get its custom-designed reboot by Watchfire that will deliver a screen up to seven times brighter than the original and four times sharper, making it vivid even during daylight hours, officials say.

Harriott said the current canopy has one-quarter the number of LEDs it will after Watchfire's work. Talk of the numbers planned — 16.3 million pixels, 49 million LEDs — "gives me goose bumps," Harriott said.

Watchfire employees will begin assembly at the Danville plant "in earnest" in the fourth quarter of this year, with delivery early next year to Las Vegas, where it will be installed over time in eight sections.

The phased assembly will allow the digital canopy to continue operating with content running seamlessly between the old and new sections, and Watchfire's plan also avoids interrupting operation at the casinos, restaurants and other businesses surrounding it.

Installation is expected to be complete by the end of next year.

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