Purple People Bridge will soon have more pop, with $1M paint job to restore its vibrancy

Southbank taps Newport's Baynum Painting for job
Posted at 7:00 AM, May 08, 2017

NEWPORT, Ky. -- If your commute involves crossing the river, you might have noticed that the once-vibrant Purple People Bridge has faded to a dustier shade in recent years.

The bridge will soon be restored to its original eye-catching color, thanks to efforts by Southbank Partners, the group responsible for its maintenance and programming.

Purple People Bridge was last painted in April 2003 by Conomos Inc. of Bridgeville, Pennsylvania. The cost for that project was nearly $2.7 million.

Large-structure paint jobs are typically guaranteed for seven to 15 years, so the Purple People Bridge is due for a fresh coat. This time around, Southbank will work with local firm Baynum Painting, whose office is located nearby on Saratoga Street in Newport.

"(Baynum) has painted all over the world – in New York City and Australia," said Southbank President Jack Moreland. "He's very capable and excited about doing this project. We are now in the process of generating cash flow to cover the $1 million that it is expected to cost to paint the bridge."

The two parties are solidifying contract details, with the project expected to begin after Memorial Day and take approximately two months to complete. Baynum Painting owner Chris Baynum said his team plans to work overnight for the duration of the project, to limit bridge closures and traffic disruption.

Southbank is planning additional upgrades to the bridge, including reintroduction this summer of the popular "love locks" as well as summertime food and beverage vendors and later improvements that could include widening the bridge and adding LED lighting that can change colors.

"We realize we can't be all things to all people, but we want as much as possible happening on the bridge," said Moreland, who cited positive growth in bridge foot traffic as part of his team's renewed commitment to making improvements.

This will be Baynum's first time painting a bridge, but the company has more than 30 years of experience painting large steel structures. Its most visible projects include popular roller coasters and water park attractions at theme parks worldwide.

Baynum's first roller coaster painting job was in 1984, when he was commissioned to paint "The Beast" at Kings Island. Since then, he and his team have traveled the world, but he maintains a special affinity for hometown projects.

"I basically told (Southbank) that I wanted to do this project, whatever it takes," he said. "I'm a Campbell County person, and I love the story behind how the Purple People Bridge came to be what it is now and what it will be for future generations. There was no way I'd let someone else come in and paint this local icon that's 10 blocks from my office."

Baynum said the process for painting roller coasters and bridges is similar in the height and scope, but there are distinct differences.

Baynum Painting also specializes in painting roller coasters and other amusement park rides around the world. (Photo provided)

"When you're painting over a body of water, it's very important that not a single drop of paint or a single tool falls into the river," he said. "The painter will be in full harness, but we have to make sure every tool they're using is tethered separately to the basket -- so that way, even if he drops a roller or spray gun, it's not going to fall into the river."

Baynum said the bridge project will be "mostly a brush-and-roller operation," but his crew will use protective tents to contain paint and fumes when using spray guns.

To revitalize the bridge's signature deep purple color, Baynum will work with PPG Pittsburgh Paints, which uses a process that involves grinding raw color into the substrate mix.

Baynum Painting will only be responsible for painting the visible portions of the bridge. Underside detailing is handled by a firm that specialize in anti-corrosion techniques.

"Our role is mostly aesthetic -- getting the color and life back into the bridge," said Baynum. "I love the purple color, and we're planning to kick it up a notch so that the bridge will be even brighter and more visible for a very long time."