Fort Hays State University students walking to Cunningham Hall by way of the Cunningham walking bridge for early morning classes today were greeted by a huge glowing Victor E. Tiger on the east end of the bridge.

The bright black, white and gold university mascot was installed Monday morning by Commercial Sign Co., Hays. RDH Electric coordinated the electrical connections to the sign, which is controlled by a photo cell and lit up for the first time about dusk on Monday.

Two freshmen were excited when they learned they were the first students to see the new Tiger lit up Monday evening.

Mattie Ross, an agriculture business major from Toponas, Colo., is a member of the women’s track and field squad. Dakota Blaylock, a computer science major from Halstead, runs for the men’s cross country and track teams.

They had been attending an event for student-athletes in Cunningham Hall and were returning to their residence halls with full plates of pizza when they descended the steps and saw the Tiger.

“It definitely adds more light,” Blaylock said.

“That’s pretty cool,” Ross said.

The bridge was built in 1973 as a means for crossing Big Creek to the new Cunningham Hall and adjoining Gross Memorial Coliseum.

The only way to reach the bridge for many years was by foot or bicycle, as the nearest street was one that dead-ended several hundred feet from the bridge near Wooster Place Apartments.

For four decades, the cement wall appeared as nothing more than an end support for the 486-foot long bridge.

The bridge became more visible in 2013 when Dwight Drive was extended across the top of the Big Creek levee to merge with Gustad Drive — the road connecting the main campus to Gross Coliseum and the Robbins Center.

Dana Cunningham, director of facilities planning at FHSU, his staff has been discussing for some time that the cement wall was a perfect spot for a Tiger.

When funds were made available by the FHSU administration for a Tiger sign this past summer, Cunningham began making plans with Commercial Sign Co. to manufacture and install Victor E. Tiger by Homecoming weekend.

A 10-by-10 foot digitally printed Victor E. Tiger, covered by a UV laminate, was stretched across the face of the frame. LED lights behind the face provide the illumination.

Charmane Kandt remembers walking across Cunningham bridge while working on her master’s degree at Fort Hays State in the mid-1980s. Kandt, now an instructor of health and human performance and coordinator of the Neuromuscular Wellness Center on campus, happened to be riding her bicycle on the FHSU campus Monday night.

“That Tiger is awesome,” Kandt said. “I think it will be especially great when people cross the bridge for basketball games, and there will just be even more light for students walking to night classes.”

Cunningham – no relation to Morton C. Cunningham, the fifth president of FHSU for whom Cunningham Hall and the bridge were named — said the project is just another example of the university partnering with the community of Hays.

The Hays branch of Commercial Sign Co. employs two FHSU graduates, Kaylene Gabel and Matt Eberle, in the company’s graphic design department.

Joe Leiker, manager of the Hays branch, said the complexity of the Tiger logo created a challenge but that the fabricators came through in flying colors.

“This was all was pretty exciting for us, too,” Leiker said. “We had some of our employees go out and take pictures of the Tiger lit up last night. After all this, we kind of jumped on board and decided to participate in Tiger Gold on Friday.”