back to top

12 Things You Probably Didn't Know About New Year's Eve In Times Square

What exactly makes this ball so special, anyway?

Posted on

1. The first Times Square New Year's Eve celebration was in 1904, in honor of the new headquarters for The New York Times.

The newspaper wanted a way to announce their arrival into what was formerly known as Longacre Square, and The New York Times owner Adolph Ochs thought New Year's Eve was the perfect time for a party. Roughly 200,000 attendees showed up to One Times Square for the all-day street festival, which ended with fireworks set off from the base of the tower. The ball wasn't added for three more years.

(Incidentally, 1904 also brought the city's first subway line.)

2. The Times Square Ball dropped for the first time in 1907, when fireworks alone just weren't cutting it anymore.

FPG / Getty Images

Adolph Ochs wanted a bigger spectacle, so he put the newspaper's chief electrician Walter Painer and designer Artkraft Strauss on the job. Drawing inspiration from the time-balls traditionally used in the maritime world, they designed a 700-pound ball, measuring five feet in diameter, fashioned out of iron and wood, and covered in 100 25-watt light bulbs.

On New Year's Eve, the ball was hoisted up the rooftop flagpole by six men, and when it fell to the roof, it triggered the lighting of a neon sign indicating the new year as well as a fireworks show. The tradition continued like this until 1920.

(Via The New York Times)

3. Counting the first ball in 1907 and our present one, there have been six different iterations of the Times Square Ball.


In 1955, it got even slimmer: 150 pounds of aluminum, controlled by just one push of a button.

Truman Moore//Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

In 1996, this ball was updated with the addition of a computerized lighting system consisting of 180 halogen bulbs and 144 strobe lights, plus over 12,000 rhinestones.

(Via The New York Times)

For the millennium celebration, the Times Square team brought in Waterford Crystal to help design the fourth ball — then technically a "geodesic sphere."


It measured six feet in diameter, weighed 1,070 pounds, and incorporated over 600 halogen bulbs, 504 crystal triangles, 96 strobe lights, and spinning mirrors.

(Via The New York Times)

The ball went green in 2008, marking the Times Square Ball Centennial with a fifth design: 6-foot diameter; 1,212 pounds; lit by 9,567 energy-efficient LED lamps with computerized color patterns; and made up of the same Waterford crystal panels.

Robert Sabo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The lights were said to use the same amount of energy as about ten toasters.

(Via CNN)

The ball we see today is the sixth, made in 2009, and absolutely massive.

Carlo Allegri / Reuters

With a 12-foot diameter; a weight of 11,875 pounds; 32,256 LED lamps; and 2,688 crystal panels, the kaleidoscopic sphere is twice as large as its predecessor. Beginning this year, the panels will be designed based on different themes of gifts — 2014 being "Gift of Imagination" — with new additions made every year.

(Via The New York Times)


5. There have only been two years in which the ball didn't drop: 1942 and 1943, during the wartime "dimout" of New York City.

William C. Shrout//Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

Crowds still gathered at Times Square and shared a moment of silence followed by chimes.

(Via Times Square Alliance)

6. One Times Square is essentially a hollow, 25-story billboard.

The New York Times moved out of the building not even ten years after constructing it, leaving it vacant and falling into disrepair. A New Yorker Talk of the Town story in 1961 claimed that it had housed a speakeasy and, during World War II, space for the F.B.I. to practice shooting and trap German spies. It was briefly marketed as a tourist destination by onetime owner Allied Chemical.

The building was wallpapered in advertisements when the Lehman Brothers bought it in 1995, and — empty but for the first three floors, which are occupied by Walgreens, and the upper floors used by One Times Square Production Management Team — it has functioned as a 25-story billboard ever since. It seems to be doing just fine, too. Filings from 2012 show that the billboards brought in over $23 million annually, which is 85% of the building's total revenue.

(Via The New Yorker)

7. The coldest ball drop was in 1917, with a midnight temperature reaching down to 1 °F and wind chill of -18 °F.

NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

According to the National Weather Service, the average midnight temperature in New York City between 1907 and 2011 was 33.7 °F. The lucky attendees of 1965 and 1972 experienced the record high: 58 °F.


9. One ton (2,200 pounds) of confetti is dropped on the crowd at midnight.

Michael Stewart / WireImage

Throughout the year, people are invited to write their New Year's wishes on pieces of confetti, which are then mixed in with the bunch.

(Via Times Square Alliance)

10. You can celebrate at Times Square without being all cold and claustrophobic outside, but it'll cost you. A lot.

Though you can get into most of the New Year's Eve parties in and around Times Square for anywhere from $75 to $225, a few of the all-inclusive events can run much, much higher.

A seat in the Direct Ball Drop View section of the Marriott Marquis Broadway Lounge will cost you $3,500; while a table for two in The R Lounge goes for $8,500. And, of course, there's always Applebee's, which is offering a buffet, open bar, and live DJ for a whopping $375 a person.

11. The Times Square Ball has inspired many varied drops around the country, from the peach drop in Atlanta, to the Hershey Kiss drop in Hershey, to the Snooki drop in Seaside Heights.

Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images

In 2011, the Jersey Shore star was dropped inside a clear ball in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. MTV's original plan was to drop the Snooki Ball in Times Square, but the request — "too late and too impractical," according to Times Square NYE producers — was denied.

12. When it's all over, we're left with almost 50 tons of trash, which takes about two days to clean.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

In 2013, sanitation workers swept up party hats, confetti, balloons, and debris for 48 hours, beginning just moments after the ball dropped. The project took 151 workers, 24 supervisors, two superintendents, and two deputy chiefs.

(Via NY1)

Correction: An earlier version of this post gave the wrong first name for the owner of The New York Times. (H/T John H. for pointing it out!)