May 3, 2005

C.U. Crew Brings Down Disco Ball

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At 10:30 yesterday morning, a 170-foot-tall crane rolled through the center of campus towards Ho Plaza to remove a disco ball which was attached to the top of McGraw Tower early Saturday morning. The removal, which took almost four hours, cost the University between $20,000-25,000, according to the Cornell press service.

Unlike an incident in 1997 in which an unknown party placed a pumpkin atop McGraw Tower on Halloween, there were greater safety concerns with leaving the disco ball aloft, according to Tommy Bruce, vice president for communications and media relations.

Given that it was made of glass, “there was some concern it would fall,” said Simeon Moss ’73, director, press relations office.

The crane, provided by Southern Tier Crane Service, was escorted through intermittant rain by Cornell University Police and after it reached the tower, authorities sealed the area off.

“It’s more of a safety issue to keep people away from the base of the tower,” said an Environmental Health and Safety official at the scene.

Workers balanced the crane and ensured that the removal would be completed safely.

A hail storm then interrupted work for about half an hour.

When the weather cleared, Evandro Soldatelli, CUPD, and Tim Ford, department of environmental health and safety, were hoisted to the top of the clocktower to retrieve the disco ball.

“It was just a PVC pipe with a disco ball bolted to its top and bottom, hooked to a lightening rod,” Soldatelli said. “It wasn’t difficult.”

“My role was just to make sure that everything went safely … it was a nice ride up and down,” Ford said.

Soldatelli and Ford brought down a disco ball about two-feet in diameter and a pair of climbing shoes from the roof of the clock tower.

Referring to the climbing shoes, “somebody climbed some portion of the tower to get it up there but at this time we really have no idea how,” said Curtis Ostrander, deputy director of Cornell Univeristy Police Administration.

Although the chimesmasters at 12 p.m. yesterday humorously played YMCA — their only disco selection — the heavy cost of the removal is no laughing matter according to University officials. The crane alone cost between $7,500-8,000 for its use, while Ostrander said that police surveilance for last weekend cost approximately $2,000. The removal also involved other expenses as well, including budgets from the Department of Grounds and the Facilities Department, and weekend-long surveillance by the Department of Environmental Health and Safety.

Now, the University’s focus will turn to finding the perpetrators who put the disco ball on top of the clock tower.

“Cornell University Police has the disco ball,” said University registrar David Yeh. “The good thing was that no one got injured. Workmen are going up to look to see if there’s any damage. We have no idea what actually occurred.”

Yeh also suggested that the hatch used to attach the pumpkin to the clocktower eight years ago had been tampered with.

It is unclear whether the perpetrators would be fined for the ball’s removal.

“There will be a consultation of what goes on next,” Bruce said.

“I hope the pranksters figured the cost of removal into their own project costs,” Moss added.

Archived article by Erica Fink
Sun News Editor
and Brian Tsao
Sun Assistant Sports Editor