ETC Controls Bring Safety and Community to Omaha RiverFront

Date Posted: 7/2/2024

ETC Controls Bring Safety and Community to Omaha RiverFront

The Omaha RiverFront, a combination of three parks in the heart of Omaha, Nebraska lining the Missouri River, has undergone a dramatic revitalization project in the past few years. The Gene Leahy Mall, Heartland of America Park, and Lewis & Clark Landing, previously making up an under-loved section of the city, have been completely transformed into 72 acres of vibrant, community-oriented space with the help of powerful ETC control systems and thoughtful lighting design by Atelier Ten. 

A project of this scale was going to need a control system that could accommodate it in stride. Jerry Onik, head of systems integration and sales at Heartland Scenic Studio Inc., immediately suggested Paradigm for its power over large areas. “Paradigm has such expanse and can connect together for unified control over the central server to cover miles and miles of park with a fiber connection for single point control.” 

Mosaic was used to bring vibrant color to special areas in the parks, inspired by Nebraska’s natural environment. In the Gene Leahy Mall’s Performance Pavillion, “the program was all based on images of the Nebraska sky. One was a sunset over the Prairie, one was the sky as a tornado was about to touch down, one was a cold winter morning,” says Joshua Spitzig of Atelier Ten, the project’s head lighting designer. “Using Mosaic, we tuned every fixture to create a series of gradients and compositions with the light inspired by those reference images.” For the Heartland of America Park’s Farnam Pier Overlook designed by Safdie Rabines Architects and HDR, Atelier Ten collaborated with OJB Landscape Architecture to create programming inspired by the parks’ planting design: “we went through OJB’s whole horticultural specification table and found the plants and flowers that lent themselves to being represented in light.” 

Creating a strong visual sense of safety was a key focus while reinventing the identity of the parks. Using ETC’s Sensor3 and Sensor IQ with 0-10V power control systems along with Echo Relay Panels, every zone in all three parks was dimmable to help increase pedestrian night vision. “It's the first time I've done that in a park of this scale. Everything was LED and dimmable, so every fixture was dimmed and balanced to create the right combination of light levels at different points in the night,” explains Spitzig. This effect has proven to be a huge success: “people are enjoying the park late into the night. Even at the playgrounds, we see families there with little kids playing until 10-11:00 at night. That’s such a stark contrast from what it was to what it is now.” 

With any big project comes the need for specialized support, but Onik and Spitzig are at ease knowing that support is coming from ETC. “The ability to service and support their products puts ETC above many of the other manufacturers, along with the fact that we have technicians who can get out there quickly if there is a problem,” says Onik. “ETC's project management team is also always there to send products when there are issues right away to not delay the project in its completion.” Spitzig agrees: “ETC is very flexible and inventive when it comes to figuring out the best way to solve unique problems. They're not an off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all type company and that's what I really love about specifying them.”

The project has been a rousing success, transforming an underused swath of land into a tether between the community and the natural world. “What I love about designing lighting for parks is getting to create spaces where people can exist outdoors without having to pay for it. Parks are one of the last places where you don't have to pay money to exist outside of your house,” says Spitzig. “Using lighting to let people be together in nature is something really special that lighting designers get to do, and the controls are a crucial part of that. ETC supports that mission, that creation of an environment where people can be closer to nature and spend time outdoors with each other.”