On Oct. 22, a coalition of local business and civic leaders will officially flip the switch to illuminate the west side of the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge. It will mark the completion of phase one of the $4.6 million Light the Hoan fundraising project, which dates back to 2016 when the initial idea fell into the hands of the group’s co-founders, Michael Hostad and Ian Abston. The pair approached Dan Steininger, president and founder of BizStarts and grandson of the former Milwaukee mayor for whom the bridge is named, about using the Hoan moniker to name an emerging leaders group. He suggested resurrecting a failed effort to light the iconic tied-arch bridge during its 2014 reconstruction.
April 2016: Hostad and Abston reached out to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, which owns the Hoan Bridge, to learn more about the original plans for aesthetic lighting and what privatizing the project would require.
May 2018: Once WisDOT approved the project, a public crowdfunding campaign was launched to raise $1.5 million. Soon after, Light the Hoan had its first meeting with Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), which was later awarded the project contract.
October 2019: Light the Hoan received the first of what would be two $1.2 million gifts from the same anonymous donor, helping to fund engineering work and renderings. The second gift, granted four months later, allowed the group to move forward with lighting one side of the bridge.
August 2020: Crews began a three-month installation of more than 2,000 computer-controlled LED light bulbs that people had donated in dedication to loved ones or special causes. While the COVID-19 outbreak caused some delays, the group forged ahead with the project. “We decided that Milwaukee may need a moment of light in what was shaping up to be a very difficult 2020,” said Hostad.
September 2020: Milwaukee gets a taste of the final product during a week-long test run. The lighting system can be programmed to change color, automate and even use audio and video feed to sync with live concerts at Summerfest or big plays at Fiserv Forum and Miller Park. Hostad said it’s “totally surreal” to see the project finally come to fruition.