Here’s the story behind the iconic Regions building Christmas lights display
The Regions Center Christmas lights display that illuminates the Magic City’s skyline each year is one of the surest signs the holiday season is upon us. But the tradition never would have started if it wasn’t for a Birmingham businessman who worked in the building in the 1970s.
Alabama NewsCenter spoke with John McGowan, head of facilities for Regions Bank, to get the back story.
Here’s what Mr. McGowan told them:
During construction (1968-1971), a light tube was placed in a small area above each window. The lights were originally designed to illuminate the building every night year-round. During the energy crisis later in the 1970s, the year-round lighting was suspended in support of energy conservation.
During the late 1970s, the building was owned by First National Bank of Birmingham and Southern Natural Gas. It is said that, during that time, a gas company executive visited Houston, Texas, during the holidays and saw a building with a similar “curtain wall” design. The building featured a Christmas display through lighted windows. Upon his return, the executive described the display to others and led an effort that resulted in the holiday displays we know today.
Over three decades later, the tradition continues each year, and a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make it happen.
Mr. McGowan explains:
The images are created by placing various colors of “gel sleeves” that slip over the white light tubes above each window. The lights are all white; it’s the color from the gel sleeve that forms the design. The concept is simple, but the process of updating and maintaining the displays is manual. The onsite maintenance team begins working on the display three to four months ahead of illumination to complete the process and check all the lights before the switch is flipped to turn them all on. The holiday displays are turned on the day after Thanksgiving each year and remain on until midnight Dec. 31.
The men and women who work for months each year to make the display possible are a part of an enduring legacy in the Magic City. Mr. McGowan says all the hard work pays off when they see people react to their efforts.
We love to hear stories from customers, community members and Regions associates who share how their families come downtown each year to see the lights on the Regions Center. Today, we see people post photos of the Regions Center on social media with captions describing the holiday season in Birmingham, and we are honored to be a part of that.
For more on the various light displays the Regions team puts together each year, check out the full story over at Alabama NewsCenter.
To view the Regions Center Christmas lights from the sky, check out the video below.