Little Elm’s Pat Anderson Controls Omni Hotel Lights

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DALLAS (CBS11) – Drive by the Dallas skyline just after sunset or just before sunrise, and you can’t miss Pat Anderson’s work.

The accountant from Little Elm is the man behind the controls of the Omni Hotel lights. He does it all remotely, through a computer program on his laptop.

“I’m from here. I’ve lived here all my life, and I love the city of Dallas,” Anderson said.

The Dallas skyline – with the neon lights of Bank of America Plaza, Reunion Tower, and the Omni – is receiving attention beyond Texas.

Dallas Skyilne (CBS11)

Dallas Skyline (CBS11)

This year, Dallas ranked first on the list of the top international skylines, in a poll of USA Today readers.

Anderson changes the light show on a daily basis – from splashes of ambient color, to holiday and sports team cheer, to corporate logos.

He said the lights reflect the positive spirit of people who live here.

“We’re bright colorful people. We’re happy Texans,” Anderson said.

The controls were handed to Anderson five years ago, when the Omni hotel opened.

Anderson was the senior project accountant for the hotel developer, Matthews Southwest.

For the 26 months it took to build the property, he crunched numbers on the construction site.

When it came time for the installer of the light system to turn it over, the City of Dallas, which owns the property, needed someone reliable to manage it, who could stay connected.

The display consists of 3,333 LED lights inside plastic tubes, set in channels between each floor of the building. Stretched out, that’s 2.8 miles of lights.

It turns on nightly, from sunset to 2 a.m., and then 5:30 a.m. to sunrise.

Anderson was there for the initial training, and then went online, to YouTube, to learn more.

“I was very nervous about making a pretty image, or doing things correctly. Even today my biggest fear is spelling something wrong. I spell-check everything,” Anderson says.

Some people initially complained, he says, that the lights were too bright, too Las Vegas. But Anderson says that’s died down with time.

At the end of the day, he sees this job—really a hobby—as simple: make people smile.

“If I can do something that makes people chuckle, that’s great,” he said.

The lights can also be a platform – a bright sign of unity, projected in dark times.

It all started with the Boston Marathon bombing.

Anderson projected the waiving American flag. The image spread all over the internet, all the way to the manager of the Omni Hotel in Boston.

“When there’s a tragedy, it’s just a sign of love for those people. Letting them know that we know what’s happened, and we feel for you, and we’re here for you,” Anderson said.

That act continued, for example, with the Paris attacks in 2015, the Brussels airport bombing last spring, and Dallas police ambush, this past July.

“One Dallas, after the Dallas police officers ambush,” Anderson recalled. The Bank of America building lit up in blue, and Reunion Tower project the words, “One Dallas,” too.

Anderson is not paid for his work. He still holds a full time job. Yet he truly enjoys his work on the lights. What began as a temporary position, he hopes to hold indefinitely.

“A lot of people don’t realize it’s just me,” said Anderson. “Not a whole crew of people do this; it’s just me.”

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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