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The Team Behind Those Lights At The Duke Energy Center

Duke Energy Building. Photo courtesy The Charlotte Observer.

Duke Energy Building. Photo courtesy of the Charlotte Observer.

Do you wonder about things, but then quickly forget them? Like, why are there so many Sharon Roads in Charlotte? WFAE's Krissa Palmer has a lot of questions about life in our region, one of which is who's responsible for the lights at the Duke Energy Center skyscraper uptown? Tuesday night, for example, it was lit up in pink for Breast Cancer Awareness. Krissa has more in this report. 

My imagination tends to run away with me. I envision the person responsible for the lights might be a cousin to the Wizard of Oz. After all, the Duke Energy Center is often called VOLTron or the Tower of Power. Maybe the operation is hidden behind a curtain with huge complex levers to illuminate the Charlotte skyline.

Turns out, it's not just one person, but a team of people. They work for Wells Fargo, which owns the building and leases it to Duke Energy. Kathleen Jones greets me on the 30th floor. She's the operations manager for special events at Wells Fargo. Most importantly, she's a member of The Team (more on that, later). So, where's master control? Where does the magic take place? My mind reels with images of a NASA control panel.

"It's actually not that exciting," Jones says. "We have a program on a laptop computer; we have different movements and different colors, so we can make a very simple pattern or a static color on the building. We have a lot of it pre-programmed now so it's just really couple clicks of a button."

Hmmm. I was imagining something more. Some fancy master control center. But the technological setup does make it easier to do some cool lighting displays. "We have every hour on the hour, for three minutes, we do a random light show if we don't have anything pre-programmed for a community or non-profit event," Jones says.

One of those community events was this summer's LGBT Pride Charlotte festival. Wells Fargo was a sponsor of the event, and had its building lit up in the colors of a rainbow. The building is also lit up in blue during Carolina Panthers home games.

"We celebrate every time they score. We do what we call a light show and when they win we do a big V at the top of the building on the handlebar. So if you're around town and you're not watching the game or if you left a little early, you can see how they did."

All this power rests with a team of six Wells Fargo employees. This team decides which groups or causes get spotlight treatment, so to speak. Jones says there aren't any special guidelines. "The committee of folks within Wells Fargo receive these requests and review them, determine which ones we can accommodate," Jones says. Not all requests are granted. For example, an anti-abortion group asked Wells Fargo to turn off its lights. That request was denied.

Whatever the team decides, Jones says members get a lot of satisfaction from this small aspect of their jobs. Jones says it's an awesome way to celebrate the community, and leave a mark on the city.