Pop art, not pop-up: Ballplayer to loom over Cincinnati

 Carol Motsinger

A rendering of the 30-story tall baseball player projection and All-Star Game signage that will be featured on Carew Tower. Installation has already begun. Also visible here is Mr. Redlegs’ trademark pillbox hat and mustache on the Scripps Center.(Photo: Provided)
Cincinnati is welcoming the biggest figure in baseball even before the 86th MLB All-Star Game festivities come to town.
Like 20-stories-tall big.
Starting tonight, a massive image of a 19th century Cincinnati Red Stockings player will be projected on Carew Tower and continue from 9:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. each night through July 15. It represents a bit of one-upmanship over All-Star Game promotion elsewhere.
"We wanted to brand this city and do something that hadn't been done in other cities ... to really give people something fun and festive," said Chip Thompson, vice president at Prestige Audio Visual. The installation is a project of Prestige and the Reds organization.
The Reds will host a lighting celebration at 9:30 p.m. today at Fountain Square, said Michael Anderson, the team's public relations manager.
The player, with bat in hand, will be in good company: His neighbor is Mr. Redlegs himself. The top of nearby Scripps Center sports a vinyl version of the mascot's pillbox hat and mustache.
All-Star related art has been transforming Greater Cincinnati for weeks. Area businesses display All-Star Game signage. Even the sidewalks have sprouted facial hair: Large handlebar mustache statues are now on display throughout the region.
The design for all of these elements are centered on one thing: Tradition. The throwback aesthetic references the styles of 1869, the year Cincinnati became home to America's first professional baseball team.
The look isn't the only old-school element of the Carew Tower project.
Thompson uses technology that was cutting edge some 60 years ago. Two large-format slide Pani projectors from the 1950s will produce the Red Stocking player.
These type of projectors were originally used to light operas, Thompson said. Artists would paint scenes on slides as a set design replacement. The only place that this technology is used regularly today is at theme parks such as Disney.
The main reason to rent the Pani projectors? To save money, Thompson said. Modern projection technology such as that used for Lumenocity would cost five times as much, he said.
The equipment will be installed about 400 feet away from Carew Tower on the roof of the Westin Cincinnati. An operator will monitor the machines while they are running.
That's because these powerful projectors require, well, a lot of power. "Each projector is pulling enough power to light about two homes," Thompson said.
And the 12,000-watt bulbs each uses is so strong that Thompson commissioned the artist to create 14 slides for the two-week run.
"The heat from the projectors will degrade the medium itself," he said.
Carew Tower as a canvas also presented challenges. The 574-foot-tall icon's brown color is not an ideal, crisp white, Thompson said. There is a lot of ambient light downtown that will interfere with the image, he added.
And another type of light would send the Red Stockings player packing.

"If there is lightning, we will shut it down," he said. That's because the projectors are set up next to the Westin's lightning rod.