Every year as the clock nears midnight on December 31, millions of eyes turn to one iconic shape: Times Square's radiant New Year's Eve ball.
A 12-feet in diameter geodesic dome, the ball weighs nearly 12,000 pounds and is illuminated by more than 32,000 LED lights. There have been seven versions of the ball since it was first lowered in 1907, but the latest was designed in 2008. It features an all-new "Gift of Wisdom" panel, designed by Waterford Crystal.
Chris Rondeau, CEO of Planet Fitness, which has sponsored Times Square's New Year's Eve celebration for seven years running, said there's nothing quite like seeing the ball up close.
"It really gives you goosebumps," he said. "It's much bigger than you think, but it's quite the experience."
The ball was designed to inspire awe, whether viewers are hundreds of feet below or thousands of miles away. And that helped amid a shift to remote celebrations during the coronavirus pandemic.
In-person activities for Times Square's New Year's Eve were canceled altogether in 2020. And this year's celebration will be significantly scaled back.
With the outbreak of the omicron variant of COVID-19, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio restricted access to fully vaccinated revelers and capped attendance at 15,000 in viewing areas
"New Yorkers have stepped up tremendously over the past year—we are leading the way on vaccinations, we have reopened safely, and every day we work toward building a recovery for all of us," de Blasio said in a statement. "There is a lot to celebrate and these additional safety measures will keep the fully vaccinated crowd safe and healthy as we ring in the New Year."
Not only has the pandemic disrupted New Year's Eve, it's taken a toll on health and wellness. But for Planet Fitness, that's an opportunity.
"I think now with mental health and mental wellness… it's really in bad shape right now post-COVID, that it's time to feel better," Rondeau said. "And you'll feel better right after your first workout."
For the one in four Americans who make resolutions, improving fitness and nutrition, and losing weight, tend to be popular choices. In a survey of 1,500 adults, conducted by YouGov, 50 percent of respondents resolved to exercise more and improve fitness, 48 percent resolved to lose weight, and 39 percent resolved to improve diet.
Rondeau said Planet Fitness with its $10 monthly memberships and "judgement free" slogan is uniquely positioned to capitalize on those resolutions to create long-term customers.
"It's the old saying, that I feel like I've got to get in shape before I join a gym, and we're the answer to that," he said. "Just come as you are, you'll feel comfortable."