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Gulf Tower signals Pirates homers, wins, weather

Friday, May 18, 2001

By Lillian Thomas, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Since last month, one of Terrence Dorsey's duties during his evening shift as a security guard at the Gulf Tower is to listen to Pirates home games on the radio. If a Pirate hits a home run, Dorsey presses a button at his console in the lobby and a new strobe light goes on atop the Downtown tower.

It's not exactly hardship duty for Dorsey, who's a big fan.

The strobe, as well as the red lights that have replaced the white on the Gulf Tower's tiered top, were the inspirations of Greg Shuster, the building's leasing agent and a man with a brain alert to marketing opportunities.

"We toured PNC Park before it opened. We saw that Gulf Tower is basically dead center field from home plate," Shuster said. "So afterward we sat around at a marketing meeting brainstorming. The building's prominence was calling out for something."

The something he came up with was the light change.

"That series of steps that marched up to the very top where the weather beacon is, those were always white. What we've done is we've changed the white on that wedding cake tier top to red."

So, at the beginning of the baseball season, the top of the tower turned from white to red, and the strobe was installed for home runs and wins.

The landmark weather beacon atop the tower has not been changed, said Shuster, who works for Grant Street Associates Inc., the building's leasing company. The Gulf Tower is owned by 110 Gulf Associates. The beacon shines a steady red for fair weather with rising temperatures, a flashing red for fair with falling temperatures, steady blue for rain with rising temperatures and flashing blue for rain with falling temperatures.

The new red tower lights are on timers and go on automatically as part of the building's core lighting system, Shuster said, but the home run strobe obviously had to be manned.

Dorsey, who is employed by Cauley Detective Agency and works the 3 to 11 p.m. shift at the Gulf Tower, said building management came to him with the plan.

"They told me that was going to be my job, other than doing security -- sitting here listening to the game and pushing the button every time they hit a home run or win a game," he said. "When the Pirates hit a home run, I press the button and hold it for five minutes. It strobes the whole five minutes. Then when they win the game, I hold it down for five minutes for that, too."

OK, so he hasn't had to do that very much lately.

"We're not sure if people are noticing the strobe," said Shuster. "We're still fine-tuning the process. We are thinking of maybe getting a bigger light up there."

Plans are to keep the red tower lights even when the season ends.

"We're going to keep it red, even see if we can get it a bit sharper," said Shuster.

Dorsey, who hasn't had a chance to go to a game in the new ballpark yet, is just hoping for more playing time for his strobe finger.

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