Times Square Ball

Times Square New Year's Eve ball drop

The ball resting atop One Times Square in 2011.
Genre New Year's Eve event
Date(s) December 31st
Begins 6:00 PM EST
Ends 12:15 AM EST
Frequency Annually
Location(s) Times Square, New York City
Inaugurated 1907
Founder Adolph Ochs
Organized by Times Square Alliance
Countdown Entertainment

The Times Square Ball is a time ball located in New York City's Times Square. Located on the roof of One Times Square, the ball is a prominent part of a New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square commonly referred to as the ball drop, where the ball descends 141 feet (43 m) in 60 seconds down a specially designed flagpole, beginning at 11:59:00 p.m. ET, and resting at midnight to signal the start of the new year. In recent years, the festivities have been preceded by live entertainment, including performances by musicians.

The event was first organized by Adolph Ochs, owner of The New York Times newspaper, as a successor to a series of New Year's Eve fireworks displays he held at the building to promote its status as the new headquarters of the Times, while the ball itself was designed by Artkraft Strauss. First held on December 31, 1907, to welcome 1908, the ball drop has been held annually since, except in 1942 and 1943 in observance of wartime blackouts.

The ball's design has also been updated over the years to reflect improvements in lighting technology; the original design was made from wood and iron and lit with 100 incandescent light bulbs, while its current incarnation features a computerized LED lighting system and an outer surface consisting of triangle-shaped crystal panels. Since 2009, the current ball has been displayed atop the building year-round, while the original, smaller version of the current ball that was used in 2008 is on display at Times Square's visitor center.

The event is organized by the Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment, a company led by Jeff Strauss,[1] and is among the most notable New Year's celebrations internationally: it is attended by at least 2 million spectators yearly, and is nationally televised as part of New Year's Eve specials broadcast by a number of networks and cable channels.[2] The prevalence of the Times Square ball drop has inspired similar "drops" at other local New Year's Eve events across the country; while some use balls, some instead drop objects that represent local culture or history.


Event organization

Spectators celebrate the arrival of 2013.
Oswaldo San Andres and Lillianne Perez join Michael Bloomberg in activating the drop for 2007.

To facilitate the arrival of attendees, Times Square is closed to traffic on beginning in the late afternoon on New Year's Eve. The square is then divided into different viewing sections referred to as "pens", into which attendees are directed sequentially upon arrival.[3][4] Security is strictly enforced by the New York City Police Department (NYPD), even more so since the 2001-02 edition in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Attendees are required to pass through security checkpoints before they are assigned a pen, and are prohibited from bringing backpacks or alcohol to the event.[4]


Festivities formally begin in the early evening with the raising of the ball at around 6:00 p.m. ET.[3] Party favors are also distributed to attendees, which have historically included large balloons, hats, and other items branded with the event's corporate sponsors.[5][6] The hours before the drop are preceded by hourly countdowns for the arrival of the new year in other countries, along with live music performances by popular musicians. Some of these performances are organized by, and aired on New Year's Eve television specials which are broadcast from Times Square.[6][7]

The drop itself occurs at 11:59 p.m.—the last minute of the year,[3] and is ceremonially "activated" by a dignitary or celebrity joined on-stage by the current Mayor of New York City.[8][9] The conclusion of the drop is followed by fireworks shot from the roof of One Times Square, along with the playing of "Auld Lang Syne" by Guy Lombardo, "Theme from New York, New York" by Frank Sinatra, "America the Beautiful" by Ray Charles, "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong, and "Over the Rainbow" by IZ.[10]

Since the 1996 New Year's Eve celebration, the current Mayor of New York City has been joined by a special guest, selected yearly to recognize their community involvement or significance, in ceremonially "activating" the ball drop by pressing a button, resembling a smaller version of the ball itself, at exactly one minute to midnight.[8] The button itself does not actually trigger the drop; that is done from a control room, synchronized using a government time signal.[9] Special guests who have activated the ball drop have included:

"Imagine" performance

Since the 2005–06 edition of the event, the drop has also been directly preceded by the playing of John Lennon's song "Imagine". Until 2009-2010, the original recording was used; since 2010-2011, the song has been performed by a headlining act:[33][34]


After the conclusion of the festivities and the dispersal of attendees, cleanup is performed overnight to remove confetti and other debris from Times Square before it is re-opened to the public the following morning. Few traces of the previous night's celebration remain after the cleanup process is completed: following the 2013-14 drop, the New York City Department of Sanitation estimated that by 8:00 a.m., it had cleared over 50 tons of refuse from Times Square, using 190 workers from their own crews and the Times Square Alliance.[39]


Beginnings (1907–19)

The first New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square was held on December 31, 1904; The New York Times' owner, Adolph Ochs, decided to celebrate the opening of the newspaper's new headquarters, One Times Square, with a New Year's fireworks show on the roof of the building to welcome 1905. Close to 200,000 people attended the event, displacing traditional celebrations that had normally been held at Trinity Church.[40] However, following several years of fireworks shows, Ochs wanted a bigger spectacle at the building to draw more attention to the area. The newspaper's chief electrician, Walter F. Palmer, suggested using a time ball, after seeing one used on the nearby Western Union Building.[40]

Ochs hired sign designer Artkraft Strauss to construct a ball for the celebration; it was built from iron and wood, electrically lit with one hundred incandescent light bulbs, weighed 700 pounds (320 kg), and measured 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter. The ball was hoisted on the building's flagpole with rope by a team of six men. Once it hit the roof of the building, the ball was designed to complete an electric circuit to light a 5-foot tall sign indicating the new year, and trigger a fireworks show.[41] The first ever "ball drop" was held on December 31, 1907, welcoming the year 1908.[40]

In 1913, only eight years after it moved to One Times Square, the Times moved its corporate headquarters to 229 West 43rd Street. The Times still maintained ownership of the tower, however, and Strauss continued to organize future editions of the drop.[42]

The second and third balls (1920–98)

The original ball was retired in 1920 in favor of a new design; the second ball remained 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter, but was now constructed from iron, weighing 400 pounds (180 kg).[43] The ball drop was placed on hiatus for New Year's Eve 1942 and 1943 due to wartime lighting restrictions during World War II.[43] Instead, a moment of silence was observed at midnight in Times Square, accompanied by the sound of church bells[43] and chimes played from sound trucks.

The second ball was retired in favor of a third design in 1955; again, it maintained the same diameter of its predecessors, but was now constructed from aluminium, and weighed 150 pounds (68 kg).[43] In 1981, the third ball was revamped in honor of the I Love New York campaign, with red lightbulbs and a green stem to give it the appearance of an apple.[40] For 1988, organizers acknowledged the addition of a leap second earlier that day (leap seconds are appended at midnight UTC, which is five hours before midnight in New York) by extending the drop to 61 seconds, and by including a special one-second light show during the extra second.[44] The original white lightbulbs returned to the ball for 1989, but were replaced by red, white, and blue bulbs in 1991 to salute the troops of Operation Desert Shield.[40]

The third ball was revamped again in 1995 for 1996, adding a computerized lighting system with 180 halogen bulbs and 144 strobe lights, and over 12,000 rhinestones.[43][45] Lighting designer Barry Arnold stated that the changes were "something [that] had to be done to make this event more spectacular as we approach the millennium."[45]

The drop itself also became computerized through the use of an electric winch synced with the National Institute of Standards and Technology's time signal; the new system was not without issues, however, as a glitch caused the ball to pause for a short moment halfway through its descent.[46] After its 44th use in 1999, the third ball was retired and placed on display at the Atlanta headquarters of Jamestown Group, owners of One Times Square.[40]

Most recent incarnations
The fourth ball (on display at Waterford Crystal's headquarters in Ireland)
The 2008 ball (on display at Times Square Visitors Center)
The current ball, as seen in 2012

Into the new millennium (1999–2007)

On December 28, 1998, during a press conference attended by New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, organizers announced that the third ball would be retired for the arrival of the new millennium, and replaced by a new design constructed by Waterford Crystal. The year 2000 celebrations would also introduce more prominent sponsorship to the drop; companies such as Discover Card, Korbel Champagne, and Panasonic were announced as official sponsors of the festivities in Times Square. The city also announced that Ron Silver would lead a committee known as "NYC 2000", to be in charge of organizing events across New York City for the year 2000 celebrations, particularly outside of Times Square.[47]

A full day of festivities was held at Times Square to celebrate the arrival of the year 2000, which included concerts and hourly cultural presentations with parades of puppets designed by Michael Curry, representing countries entering the new year at that hour. Organizers expected a total attendance exceeding 2 million spectators.[48]

The fourth ball, measuring 6 feet (1.8 m) in diameter and weighing 1,070 pounds (490 kg), incorporated a total of over 600 halogen bulbs, 504 triangle-shaped crystal panels provided by Waterford, 96 strobe lights, and spinning, pyramid-shaped mirrors. The ball was constructed at Waterford's factory in Ireland, and was then shipped to New York City, where the lighting system and motorized mirrors were installed.[41] Many of the triangles were inscribed with "Hope"-themed designs changing yearly, such as "Hope for Fellowship", "Hope for Wisdom", "Hope for Unity", "Hope for Courage", "Hope for Healing", and "Hope for Abundance".

For 2002, the ball's crystals were engraved with the names of nations and organizations who were affected by the September 11 attacks.[3][49]

Present day (2008–present)

In honor of the ball drop's centennial anniversary, a brand new fifth design debuted for New Year's Eve 2008. Once again manufactured by Waterford Crystal with a diameter of 6 feet (1.8 m), but weighing 1,212 pounds (550 kg), it used LED lamps provided by Philips (which can produce 16,777,216 or 224 colors), with computerized lighting patterns developed by the New York City-based lighting firm Focus Lighting. The ball featured 9,576 energy-efficient bulbs that consumed the same amount of electricity as only 10 toasters.[2] The 2008 ball was only used once, and was placed on display at the Times Square Visitors Center following the event.

For 2009, a larger version of the fifth ball was introduced—an icosahedral geodesic sphere lit by 32,256 LED lamps. Its diameter is twice as wide as 2008 ball, at 12 feet (3.7 m), and contains 2,688 Waterford Crystal panels, with a weight of 11,875 pounds (5,386 kg). It was also designed to be weatherproof, as the ball would now be displayed atop One Times Square nearly year-round following the celebrations.[40][46][50] The major sponsors for the festivities are Moët & Chandon, Nivea, and Toshiba.

Yearly themes for the ball's crystal panels continued; from 2008 to 2013, the ball contained crystal patterns that were part of a Waterford series known as "World of Celebration", including themes such as "Let There Be Light" and "Let There Be Peace". For 2014, all the ball's panels were replaced, marking a new theme series known as "Greatest Gifts", beginning with "Gift of Imagination".[31][38][50][51]

The numerical sign indicating the year (which remains atop the tower along with the ball itself) also uses Philips LED lamps. For 2014, the final two digits of the sign used bulbs from the company's "Hue" line of multi-color LED lamps, allowing them to also have computerized lighting cues.[52]

Weather at midnight

According to the National Weather Service, from 1907 to 2011, the average temperature at midnight in New York City was 33.7 °F (0.9 °C). The coldest event was in 1917 when the temperature was 1 °F (−17 °C) (−18 °F (−28 °C) after wind chill), the second coldest was 11 °F (−12 °C) in 1962. The warmest ball drop was 58 °F (14 °C) in 1965, 1972, and 1992. It has snowed during the ball drop just seven times out of 110 events (one being light snow)—1926, 1934, 1948, 1952, 1961, 1967, and 2009—and it has rained multiple times.[29][53]


ABC News' presence at Times Square for ABC 2000 Today

As a public event, the festivities and ball drop are broadcast as part of New Year's Eve television specials originating from Times Square on several major U.S. television networks and cable channels. By far the most notable of these is Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve; created, produced, and originally hosted by the entertainer Dick Clark until his death in 2012, and currently hosted by Ryan Seacrest, Jenny McCarthy, and Fergie, the program first aired on NBC in 1972 before moving to ABC, where it has been broadcast ever since.[54][55] New Year's Rockin' Eve has consistently been the most-watched New Year's Eve special in the U.S., peaking at 22.6 million viewers for its 40th edition in 2012.[54][56] Following the death of Dick Clark in April 2012, a crystal engraved with his name was added to the 2013 ball in tribute.[55]

Across the remaining networks, NBC broadcasts New Year's Eve with Carson Daly, hosted from Times Square by Carson Daly of The Voice and Last Call, and Spanish-language network Univision broadcasts ¡Feliz!, hosted from Times Square by Raúl de Molina of El Gordo y La Flaca.[57][58] On cable, CNN carries coverage of the festivities, known as New Year's Eve Live, which has been hosted by Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin from Times Square.[59] Fellow news channel Fox News Channel carries All-American New Year, most recently hosted by Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Bill Hemmer from Times Square.[60]

MTV has also broadcast coverage originating from the network's Times Square studios at One Astor Plaza. For 2011, MTV also held its own ball drop in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, the setting of its popular reality series Jersey Shore, featuring cast member Snooki lowered inside a giant "hamster ball". Originally, MTV planned to hold the drop within its studio in Times Square, but the network was asked by city officials to conduct the drop elsewhere.[61]

Since 2009, organizers have produced an official webcast of the ball drop and its associated festivities.[62][63]

Past broadcasts

Beginning in the 1940s, NBC broadcast coverage from Times Square anchored by Ben Grauer on both radio and television. Its coverage was later incorporated into special episodes of The Tonight Show, continuing through Johnny Carson and Jay Leno's tenures on the program. NBC would introduce a dedicated special, New Year's Eve with Carson Daly, beginning in 2003.[64]

From 1956 to 1976, CBS was well known for its television coverage of the festivities hosted by bandleader Guy Lombardo from the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, featuring his band's famous rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight. After Lombardo's death in 1977, CBS and the Royal Canadians, now led by Victor Lombardo, attempted to continue the special. However, Guy's absence and the growing popularity of ABC's New Year’s Rockin’ Eve prompted CBS to eventually drop the band entirely. The Royal Canadians were replaced by a new special, Happy New Year, America, which ran in various formats with different hosts (such as Paul Anka, Donny Osmond, Andy Williams, Paul Shaffer, and Montel Williams) until it was discontinued after 1996. CBS, barring a special America's Millenium broadcast for 2000,[65] no longer provides any national coverage from Times Square.[66][67][68][69]

For 2000, in lieu of New Year's Rockin' Eve, ABC News covered the festivities as part of its day-long telecast, ABC 2000 Today. Hosted by Peter Jennings, the broadcast featured coverage of millennium festivities from around the world, including those in New York City. Jennings was joined by Dick Clark as a special correspondent for coverage from Times Square.[70]

Fox previously aired New Year's specials covering Times Square with rotating hosts and themes, primarily under the title New Year's Eve Live. For 2015, New Year's Eve Live was replaced by Pitbull's New Year's Revolution, which is broadcast from Miami instead.[71]


  1. Michael Bloomberg, whose mayoral term ended at midnight, did not attend, and celebrated privately with his family instead. Unlike Bloomberg's inauguration in 2002, which was held shortly after midnight, Bill de Blasio was inaugurated in a ceremony the following morning at Gracie Mansion[27]
  2. Cee-Lo's performance was criticized by fans for his change of a lyric relating to religion.[34]


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Coordinates: 40°45′23″N 73°59′11″W / 40.7564°N 73.9865°W / 40.7564; -73.9865

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