Mighty Lights expanding along Memphis riverfront this fall

Nonprofit Memphis Bridge Lighting, Inc. is beginning work this week on an expansion of the newly branded Mighty Lights LED lighting installations on the Memphis riverfront. The $14 million privately-funded project on the Harahan Bridge/Big River Crossing and soon-to-be-illuminated Hernando de Soto Bridge is free to the public every night of the year.

“This is an asset that is certainly for all of Memphis,” said Webb Wilson, Memphis Bridge Lighting board member. “Once the lights on Hernando de Soto are launched, we’ll have both bridges going at the same time and light shows will be coordinated between the bridges. It will be interesting and unique to have these two big structures speaking and playing to one another.”

The dynamic Philips LED lighting package premiered on Big River Crossing in October 2016. The original idea came from a trip that Wilson took to San Francisco five years ago with his wife when lights had recently been installed on the Bay Bridge.

“There were a bunch of people sitting around having a dessert or a drink and watching the bay, enjoying and activating the space there,” said Wilson. “It seemed like something Memphis could do, but do in a uniquely Memphis way, with two bridges and done in color.”

Light shows currently take place at Big River Crossing every hour on the hour after sundown. The bridge has become a top local tourism attraction with more than 300,000 visitors since opening.

“The economic activity generated by the lights and the activity around that has surpassed in a relatively short period of time the cost of actual producing the lights,” said Wilson.

Expect to see special color schemes and lighting setups to highlight local activities and special causes like big Memphis Grizzlies games or to help raise awareness for cancer research at St. Jude.

“There will be ways to make it dynamic and make it reactive to dates and important events and causes throughout Memphis,” said Wilson. “Our intent is to have different shows around some of the bigger holidays or bigger efforts so it’s not the same show forever. Our intent is to change it up, so it will continue to bring people downtown to the river.”

More than $12.5 million of the project’s total cost has been raised to date, and dedication opportunities of vertical cables and arcs on the Hernando de Soto Bridge are now available.

Construction on the Hernando de Soto portion of the project began on Monday, June 4. Two lanes of traffic on the westbound side of I-40 will be closed for six days a week from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. until July 14. Then, the project will close two lanes eastbound for six days a week, same hours per day, from July 16 to August 25.

The full majesty of the expanded Mighty Lights will be unveiled during RiverArts Fest on October 27.

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Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.