Crews replace sculpture atop Bartle Hall after repairs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After a summer of repairs, the sculpture atop Bartle Hall that was damaged by lightning is back in its rightful place. The iconic appearance of the Kansas City skyline is restored.

The replacement of the sculpture took place just as the sun came up. Just after 7 a.m., an Erickson Sky Crane cut through the city's skyline and hovered for a few minutes above the first piece of the sculpture before it lifted off.

Eric Bosch, the KCMO city architect said, "The people in the helicopter can't see what they are doing. Its all by the communication of the people in the tower and on the ground. They are guiding them."

The helicopter was up and over the easternmost pillar in seconds, ready to east the giant piece down to waiting crews perched high atop the city.

One of the four iron workers in the sky was Tim Olah. His family was among dozens of spectators watching from the ground.

"I would trust him. He has been doing this so long," said Tim's young son, Noah.

Tim's mom, Serena, was nervous.

"In May, I wasn't upset because I didn't realize all the things that could go wrong. This time I was really kind of nervous. He is in his height of glory when he was doing this."

The first piece was set without a hitch, so the sky craned landed momentarily while workers secured it.

On May 8, the sculpture was removed after workers who were changing the gel on the lights for the World series last Fall noticed a big crack. It happened after an apparent lightning strike tore the middle of the piece wide open.

Since then, welders at Zahner Company have been working all summer on the tricky repair.

"Welding. Welding. Welding," says Bill Zahner who helped build the sculptures 22 years ago. "We spent days welding this piece up. Some of the last welds were just done Sunday."

During the repairs, improvements were made to better ground the 40 feet tall, 24,000-pound sculpture.

The city is in the process of digitizing the lighting, so workers won't have to climb up and change gels every time the city wants to change colors on the sky sculptures.

Richared Welnowski is helping design the lighting improvements.

"Different lights can be Chiefs, can be Royals, can be patriotic. In split seconds controlled from iPadss or iPhones."

And although everyone appreciated the skill and precision that was achieved during the repairs of the sculpture, no one wants to have to repeat the process.

Bill Zahner says, "I think its there, lets hope, for the next hundred years."

The sky stations have adorned Bartle Hall since 1994. Back then, the city though it might take two days to set all nine pieces in place with a similar sky crane. It took only 45 minutes.