When the Municipal Light Plant started generating electricity in 1903, smoke billowed from the power plant that lit a young, growing city. Now in 2021, smoke is rising again from the same smokestack, but this time for a soccer team in its new home.
Just as there’s a new home for the Columbus Crew at the convergence of the Olentangy and Scioto Rivers, there’s also a new look to a familiar city landmark.
The Municipal Light Plant smokestack, which once was painted white, has gotten a facelift and now emits gold smoke. While this is a new tradition for the Black & Gold, it’s a nod to the state capital’s past.
Constructed in 1903, the Municipal Light Plant supplied power to streetlights, homes and businesses in the city, according to Columbus Landmarks, an organization advocating for the preservation of local landmarks.
In 1977, Columbus discontinued relying on the plant to generate its electricity, opting to buy electric from elsewhere. With that, the smokestack, which read Municipal Light Plant down its brick trunk, discontinued its use.
But the Crew’s move to the Astor Park neighborhood has given the beacon-like structure new life.
The 250-foot-tall-plus tower has been painted gold in honor of the local soccer team. For those passing by the stadium on the 670-OH 315 interchange, they’ll notice the tower reads “Columbus” down its side, firmly planting the Crew’s flag in the downtown neighborhood where the Black & Gold now reside.
On the other side of the stack, facing the stadium, “The Crew” is written in a font that matches the old typeface that once donned the powerplant’s tower. This was done purposely not to literally rewrite history, but to rehabilitate a piece of Columbus’ past.
“It’s another icon for the city now” said Crew President & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “We rise up, we elevate this Club to new heights, with championships, and our ambition. At the end of the day, when people see this Black and Gold smokestack, they know that this is the land of the Crew.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that fans of the Club once known as the Hardest Working Team in America will hear a familiar work whistle while gold smoke flows from a refurbished powerplant during the Crew’s warmups, a Smokestack Signal to all that it’s time to ‘get to work’ and enter Lower.com Field to cheer on the Black and Gold.
Fans and anyone traveling around the stadium should also expect to see smoke illuminate from the smokestack after Crew wins, a homage to the Municipal Light Plant from decades ago.
The Crew is more than just a soccer club from Columbus. It is an identity and a community – a symbol to represent where we come from and what we strive to be.
While the Municipal Light Plant is a landmark from the past, its refurbished look speaks to a bold present.
For those traveling through Columbus, they’ll see a city and a team rising to new heights. For those marching toward the stadium on matchdays, they’ll see a tall smokestack guiding them to their home away from home.
And when gold smoke whistles after the final whistle, it’ll serve as a reminder that Black and Gold players and supporters alike put in a good shift.