Pepsi to quench drivers' needs Company will replace electronic billboard on 83

July 09, 1996|By Brian Byrnes | Brian Byrnes,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

For commuters on Interstate 83, the electronic sign at the Pepsi-Cola plant south of Cold Spring Lane can be an incessant reminder of two of the few things that are inevitable in life: time and weather. But since it was turned off last month, the sign has been a reminder of nothing.

A victim of the winter's blizzard and nesting pigeons, the 27-year-old sign had been spewing gibberish for weeks instead of the correct time, Fahrenheit and Celsius readings.

But the company has decided to replace it July 29 with a new state-of-the-art billboard that will not only provide the time and temperature, but also Pepsi ads, employees' birthdays and anniversaries, local weather and traffic conditions.

For commuters such as Jerry Wheeler, who takes I-83 from Timonium to his downtown office on Baltimore Street daily, the 65-foot blank sign makes life a little more difficult.

"I always check the time, particularly when coming to work," said Wheeler, executive vice president of A. J. Burton Group Inc., an employment, recruiting and placement firm. "I look at the temperature gauge in my car and check it with the sign's to see if it coincides."

This community reliance on the quasi-Baltimore landmark put the Pepsi plant in a tough position.

"Do we purchase a new one or fix the old one?" said plant manager Rick Patterson, who oversees the production of more than 25 million cases of soft drinks a year at the largest Pepsi production facility on the East Coast.

"We decided to keep the old-fashioned logo because of its significant nostalgic appeal but replace the broken electronic sign with a new multiline reader."

Patterson said community interest was a deciding factor in purchasing a new sign.

"The cost was not an issue; we felt it was the right thing to do for the people in the community," he said.

Officials hope the aluminum composite material will be strong enough to keep the pigeons from destroying the sign. They also hope the pigeons will find a new home.

One man who will be a bit upset to see the pigeons' current home removed is Woodrow Felder of the 2500 block of Baltimore St., a Pepsi employee. But Felder, who raises pigeons with his son, remains optimistic.

"They'll move them out, but they will come back in," said Felder, who has more than 100 pigeons. "It's not hard for the pigeon to come back in. They're going to be all right."

Pub Date: 7/09/96

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