SAN FRANCISCO -- The 25,000 shimmering lights that nightly transform the Bay Bridge into a glowing white light sculpture are going to stick around.
Organizers of the world's largest light sculpture will announce Wednesday a plan to raise $12 million in donations and to secure permits to shine on another 10 years, from 2016 to 2026.
The LED lights were installed on bridge cables one year ago as part of what was supposed to be a two-year run of flickering, abstract light patterns on the western span.
Caltrans says the lights must be removed in March 2015, the end of the two years, so crews can paint the bridge for routine maintenance.
And leaders of the Bay Lights project say they will raise $12 million and get the necessary government permits for a second, longer act.
"Bay Lights has raised the bar worldwide on what can be accomplished with art in large public places," said Ben Davis, a board member with Illuminate the Arts, the nonprofit doing the project. "It has shown that a project can be done on this scale and bring the community together."
Bay Lights picked Wednesday as its day for the announcement because it's the one-year anniversary of the debut. The sculpture will go dark from 7 to 7:10 p.m. Thursday as a reminder of the loss there would be if the lights disappear.
The light sculpture has become a familiar sight, and one of the must-see things to take in while in the city. The lights have added more luster to the waterfront as a place to visit, walk and experience the sights and sounds of San Francisco Bay, say restaurant managers and San Francisco Chamber of Commerce officials.
The lights have bumped up business by 10 percent at the Waterbar restaurant along the Embarcadero, said Peter Sittnick, managing partner of the restaurant.
The rush hour for dinner has expanded because more patrons arrive earlier or later than normal to savor the light patterns bathing the bridge and bay, he said.
"Of course I'm happy with a 10 percent increase, but it goes beyond that," he said. "You can tell from people's faces and their taking photos of the lights that they are enjoying themselves."
While no studies have been done to pinpoint the economic value of the light sculpture, the sculpture has enhanced the waterfront, said Gwen Oldham, a spokeswoman for the chamber of commerce.
The artist behind the project said he thinks the ever-changing light patterns will stand up to another 10 years of public scrutiny.
Leo Villareal, a New Yorker who used to live in Silicon Valley, said he was inspired by the energy of the waves, tides, fog, wind, fish, boats on the bay, and the cars and trucks. "It's very open-ended, and people have very personal reactions to it."
Villareal said he is confident the project will win another 10 years because of the experience gained in planning, funding and securing permits the first time around.
"It took an enormous amount of planning," he said. "Yes. I think it will be easier this time."
Caltrans and other agencies with jurisdiction over the bay and the Bay Bridge must approve permits to put back the sculpture. Caltrans officials had no immediate response on the new plan.
Davis said the wiring system can be put back in 2016, although newer and tougher LED bulbs will be installed to withstand the harsh bay weather. Some of the bulbs went dark last year.
He said his group plans to have the light sculpture back in action in early 2016 when the Bay Area will host the 50th Superbowl at the 49ers' new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.
"It's a good opportunity to celebrate our region," he said.