Philadelphia's iconic Boathouse Row lights glowing once again after $2.1M upgrade

Friday, March 8, 2024
Philadelphia's iconic Boathouse Row lights glowing once again after $2.1M upgrade
After more than a year in the dark, Boathouse Row is glowing once again.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- After more than a year in the dark, Boathouse Row is glowing once again.

The lights were turned back on after a year-long upgrade.

The Philadelphia staple, first introduced in 1979, went dark on March 20, 2023. Officials with the Fairmount Park Conservancy said the previous lights had suffered extensive maintenance issues.

"Just due to its location on the river -- from wildlife, from weather," said Tara Rasheed, the senior director at the Fairmount Park Conservancy.

Rasheed said after the lights were turned off, an assessment was done to determine the best way to redesign and upgrade the lighting system.

FULL LIGHT DEMO: Boathouse Row glowing once again after $2.1 million upgrade

After removing the old lights, the 12 boat clubs along Kelly Drive prepped their buildings for the new system. According to the Fairmount Park Conservancy, the boat clubs collectively spent about $850,000 on necessary repairs and maintenance.

"The houses themselves put in a lot of treasure, a lot of time, a lot of sweat equity to get the houses ready to receive the lights," said Bonnie Mueller, the commodore of the Schuylkill Navy of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia-based lighting design firm 'The Lighting Practice' designed an upgraded custom lighting system, and Eagle Industrial Electric worked as the onsite contractor.

"We had to be very resourceful with our equipment while maintaining our safety plan to access the houses," said Matthew Stevenson, the vice president of operations for Eagle Industrial Electric.

Gerald Rothstein III, the vice president of management for Eagle Industrial Electric, said it took about five months to install the 6,400 LED lights.

"With the new technology, now there's better cabling, tighter weather-tight fixtures. Pieces like that -- they will contribute to longer use," Rothstein explained to Action News.

The new lighting system cost about $2.1 million and includes 16 million color combinations.

The hope is that it will shine bright on Boathouse Row for years to come.

"Boathouse Row is such an iconic landmark for Philadelphia," Mueller said. "We know that it lives in the hearts and minds of all our citizens."

Rasheed said it took a team effort to make this new lighting system possible. The conservancy worked with the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department, the Lighting Place, Eagle Industrial Electric, IBEW Local 98 Electricians, and the 12 boat clubs.

"When we turned out the lights in March 2023, we heard the story was picked up in a lot of locations," Rasheed said. "For 12 months, everyone has been eager to see those lights go back on."

Philadelphia's iconic Boathouse Row set to shine again Thursday night

Funds to replace the lights and underwrite the lighting project were provided by the Joanna McNeil Trust and the City of Philadelphia.

The Fairmount Park Conservancy said the Boathouse Row Lights can be booked for special events, holidays, sponsored shows, and individual requests, with fees going directly to the ongoing maintenance of the Boathouse Row lights. To learn more, visit the Boathouse Row website.