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 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 been updated over the years to reflect improvements in lighting technology; the ball was initially constructed from wood and iron, and lit with 100 incandescent light bulbs. The current incarnation, designed by Harlem-based architectural lighting firm Focus Lighting, features a computerized LED lighting system and an outer surface consisting of triangular crystal panels. These panels are produced by Waterford Crystal, and contain inscriptions representing a yearly theme. Since 2009, the current ball has been displayed atop One Times Square year-round, while the original, smaller version of the current ball that was used in 2008 has been on display inside the Times Square visitor’s center.
The event is organized by the Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment, a company led by Jeff Strauss and is among the most notable New Year’s celebrations internationally: it is attended by at least 1 million spectators yearly, and is nationally televised as part of New Year’s Eve specials broadcast by a number of networks and cable channels. 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.