The secrets behind Charlotte’s skyline

The Charlotte skyline at night.

Courtesy of Wells Fargo

Many students had returned to Queens from winter break by the time the Carolina Panthers played the New Orleans Saints in the NFL Playoffs. That night, in celebration of the big game, the lights among uptown Charlotte matched the colors adoring the backs of fans around the city: a sea Carolina blue. Standing tall among the skyline were the Bank of America Corporate Center and the Duke Energy Center.

This isn’t the case every night. Sometimes, the city’s tallest buildings are shining a different color. Sometimes, the Bank of America Center’s crown remains white while the Duke Energy Center is illuminated with a full spectrum of colors. Sometimes, every building is topped with a default white.

That’s because each building handles their lights differently and it just so happens that sometimes their interests align.

Though the Bank of America Center is the older building, the Duke Energy Center has been using LEDs to light up the Charlotte night sky for longer. The brains behind the Wells Fargo-owned Duke Energy Center and its lights is Bob Bertges, who is now the corporate property manager for Wells Fargo. When the idea for the building was conceived (at the time planned to be the headquarters for the now-defunct Wachovia), Bertges thought back to his childhood home in Pittsburgh where a flame on top of the Equitable Gas building would change colors based on the weather. He wanted this skyscraper to also change colors, except with lights rather than fire.

Seeing the Charlotte skyline now, Bob Bertges takes bit of pride. “All of the buildings in Charlotte now have lights. I’d like to think we started a positive trend.”

Bertges estimates that the Duke Energy Center is lit up for some event or another two-thirds of the nights in the year. This is because the Duke Energy Center doesn’t just light up for the city’s sports teams, but because it also accepts requests for community events, which a community sifts through and decides on whether or the building should celebrate the event. People send in their requests to an email, and afterwards the team helps the requesting event decide which colors would work the best in the Charlotte night sky. Every night the building puts on a light show at the top of the hour every hour, even on nights when the building leaves its lights looking white.

While the Duke Energy Center was designed with colorful lights in mind, The Bank of America Center, on the other hand, added LED lights as part of an update to a building that’s now over 25 years old. The top of the tower didn’t change colors often in the past, and Bank of America didn’t plan to deviate from its building’s character with the updates. “We don’t want to change [color] on a whim everyday,” said Bank of America Corporate Real Estate Global Strategy Executive Jessica Churchill.

Churchill says their tower typically brings out the alternate colors on holidays, during local events in which Bank of America is the presenting sponsor, for significant Hornets games, and for all Panthers games. The nights in which the building deviates from the white crown are decided by an internal team.

The differing frequencies in which the two buildings stray from the white LEDs leads to an interesting contrast among the outlines of the Charlotte nighttime skyline; one stands out for its elegant, white crown while the other stands out for its playful display of colors. On some nights, however, they play their part in a united Charlotte skyline, in which every skyscraper shines the same color. According to Bertges, there are nights in which Charlotte Center City Partners requests that all buildings across Uptown. This isn’t always just on the day of a specific event either, sometimes, especially in the case of nationally-broadcasted sports events, they are asked to match the day before when networks often record their footage of the city to use on-air.

There are Twitters that reveal the reasons behind the colors of each building on any given night for both buildings. The Bank of America Center’s lights can be found on Bank of America CAO Andrea Smith’s and Bank of America Market President Charles Bowman’s Twitters. The Duke Energy Center’s lights can be found on the Wells Fargo Lights Twitter.

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Published by students of Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte, N.C. 28274.