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Regions Bank celebrates Christmas season with Birmingham HQ tower light display

After months in the making, the Regions Center tower in downtown Birmingham has once again staked its claim as the Magic City’s tallest holiday display.

The company’s headquarters lit the Birmingham night sky Friday evening to celebrate its annual Christmas illumination.

Crews over the past two months had been reviewing the 30-story building to ensure roughly 2,500 windows were prepared for the light display. The colossal Christmas trees, massive wreath and the huge stocking adorn the Regions Center nightly during the holiday season every year.

According to Regions, the holiday tradition began over four decades ago when the building was shared by the former First National Bank of Birmingham and Sonat, also known as Southern National Gas.

Michael Bianca, corporate property relationship manager for Regions Bank, touched on the tradition’s origins.

“The details on how it all started have been hard to pinpoint, but the story goes that one of the executives for the Southern Natural Gas company traveled to Houston, Texas, during the holidays,” explained Bianca. “During that trip, he saw a building that had a similar ‘curtain wall’ design, and that building had a Christmas display created by lights in the windows. He came back to Birmingham and said, ‘We’ve got to do something like that here.’ And that’s what led to the Christmas display that’s been illuminating our skyline during the holidays for over 40 years.”

It is often believed that Regions utilizes a modern technological system to make the tower come to life. However, Bianca said the company employs the same process that is nearly identical to the way it was created in the 1970s.

“The building turned 50 years old this year, and what makes the design possible is a feature that was built into the windows before anyone ever thought of using the windows for a Christmas display,” Bianca advised. “As the building was under construction, a light tube was placed above every window starting on the fifth floor, all the way to the top. The idea was to have the building displaying bright white light every evening, but the energy crisis of the ‘70s brought those plans to a halt. It was only later that the Christmas display was created, and they were able to use the lights installed above each window to create the images people see from miles away.”

Regions noted that the crews place what are referred to as gel sleeves over the white lights that need to be altered to red or green to create the Christmas arrangement. Grids show team members which windows need to be red, green or the original white.

The financial services company said that crew members comb through the tower after the holiday season and change the gel sleeves to display a golfer design that is illuminated in the weeks leading up to the Regions Tradition golf tournament every spring.

When Summer Olympics soccer came to Legion Field in 1996, the building boasted the Olympic Rings to celebrate the occasion. In a patriotic display, the tower displayed an enormous American flag and the letters “USA” in 1991 during the Gulf War.

In describing the process of displaying the formal illuminations, Bianca said the undertaking “takes months at a time.”

Regions noted that the labor-intensive effort is well worth it, as locals take in the tower’s display while partaking in Christmas festivities.

Bianca concluded, “It’s a real honor for Regions to be part of the Birmingham skyline and to be part of the Magic City’s celebration of Christmas every year. This is our headquarters city, and we are proud to carry on this tradition.”

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL