The Ravenel Bridge spans the Cooper River in Charleston, South Carolina and has a main span of 1,546 feet (471 m), with towers at 575 tall. It’s the third longest among cable-stayed bridges in the Western Hemisphere and cost $700 million. When the twin cities of Charleston and Mount Pleasant wanted to throw a party to open the new bridge, they turned to PDA. When first approached by the city planners, Jeff Nickles, PDA’s president, knew that they had come to the right place. Jeff had watched the bridge being built for many years and had often thought how cool it would be to light the largest structure in the state. From the start, both cities expressed how they had limited budgets for the opening event, but that didn’t stop PDA from thinking big. The cities’ plan was to have a gala right in the middle of the bridge (the two older bridges were still being used at the time).
After many meetings, site checks (lots of site checks – it was a great place to visit), PDA came up with a plan. The bridge consists of two 575 towers with cables attached, because of the limited budget, the PDA team felt they had to light the towers and forgo the cables. Jeff did a lot of research and at the time (2005) found the proper lights to do the job. He chose fixtures from the Italian Coemar Lighting Company. PDA’s plan was to uplight the legs of the towers utilizing a two-tier method – wash lights for lower section and long throw profiles to light the higher sections. As the sun set, the towers came to life, much to the amazement of the crowd. The party was billed as Charleston’s “Party of the Century”. PDA got rave reviews on the project and was featured in international lighting magazines such as – LSA, Lighting Dimensions and Lighting and Sound.