In this season of hope and goodwill, Ryan Archer is indeed hopeful.
He's "cautiously optimistic," he says, that repairs to the Friends University clock tower will be completed soon and that the landmark near Kellogg and Meridian will once again glow with lights for the holidays.
"I don't know if I'm a fool for being optimistic, but I am," said Archer, the university's director of purchasing, who is overseeing the $2.5 million repair project.
"It's going to be beautiful. We know people love the lights on that tower, and nobody wants them on more than we do."
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The Davis Administration Building was heavily damaged in a July 2009 hailstorm that hammered the Friends campus and surrounding neighborhoods. Hailstones, some the size of baseballs, totaled the building's slate roof and shattered many of the clock tower lights.
The 124-year-old clock tower, lighted for the first time during Friends University's centennial celebration in 1998, was dark last holiday season as crews surveyed the damage and awaited better weather to start repair work.
Officials had hoped repairs would be complete in time for a tree-lighting ceremony in early December. But the work is taking longer than expected, Archer said.
One complication is the Kansas wind.
"A lot of the work is being done by crane, and they can't operate in certain wind conditions," Archer said. Wind speeds above 23 mph shut the cranes down, he said. "So far we've lost about a month."
Crews have replaced the slate tiles on the building's roof, Archer said. Now they are waiting on suppliers for more than 700 pieces of fiberglass that must be placed around the edges and cornices.
"Whenever those pieces come in, we're putting them on and installing the lights," Archer said. "It's a time-consuming process."
When lighted with nearly 13,000 white bulbs, the tower is clearly visible to motorists along Kellogg. It also casts a festive glow upon crowds that gather to hear holiday concerts by the university's Singing Quakers or see the annual productions of "The Nutcracker."
Archer said he doesn't know exactly when the tower will glow again, but he hopes it will be before Christmas.
"It might be December 24th," he said. "All I can say is, we'll do our best."