After eight months and $2.4 million of construction and expense, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday switched on its new giant digital screen taking the place of a well-known Olympic mural.
For nearly 15 years, the photographic collage of children at Centennial Olympic Park had greeted travelers at the top of the escalators coming up from the Plane Train tunnel. It's not completely gone: The center of the mural, featuring a young girl with raised arms, now makes a special appearance in digital form.
The segment of the "Spirit of Atlanta" mural by photographer and artist Deborah Whitehouse is one of the rotating images on the digital screen, along with "welcome images" and directional signs. Whitehouse died in 2015.
Plans had been to include advertising on the 27.5-by-7.5 foot screen, but for now the $500,000 screen will just show images and directional signs, according to Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Reese McCranie.
The installation of the screen and renovation of the escalator hall is the first project of note to be completed as part of the airport $6 billion renovation and expansion.
The Olympic mural spurred strong feelings on both sides, with some saying its time had passed, and other Atlantans reminiscing that the familiar faces of the mural reminded them they were home.
The mural was covered up with advertising periodically in 2015 and 2016, before being peeled off the wall in June 2016 to prepare for installation of the screen.
Airport officials had hoped to complete the screen by the holidays last year, but they encountered some structural issues along the way.
The screen and its installation cost $500,000. But nearly $900,000 was added to the construction expense for a new scaffolding system that hangs from the ceiling.
Planners discovered “the existing conditions would not support a floor mounted scaffolding system,” so the project had to switch to a scaffolding system suspended from the steel frame above the ceiling.
What's more, the sprinkler system in the ceiling “was found to conflict with beam clamps used in the new scaffolding system,” so the sprinklers had to be relocated. And, the ceiling beams had to be reinforced with cross bracing to support the scaffold.
The work also included installing drywall, LED lights, a new ceiling and steel to support the video wall.