Normally when a Columbus Crew supporter is talking about the weather, it's connected to field conditions, how close a storm is on the radar or the status tailgating. All three of these things are inconvenient but lack any real widespread damage control. The topic arose this week when painting a Tifo 10 times the size of what Tifosweat, the creative minds behind the larger banner displays in the Crew’s supporters section, the Nordecke, has created in the past.
“We had water damage on 10 percent of it. Not colossal, it can be fixed, it can be corrected,” said the Nordecke’s director of communications Jeff Barger about a June 29 storm that hit the Columbus area hard and affected Tifosweat’s ability to get work done in crunch time.
What resulted were multiple locations provided by both long-term and newer volunteers alike. Within 12 hours, three spaces were provided. Then two more for the next day of work and two more for the day after that.
“It’s really incredible when this community comes together and what we can accomplish,” said Barger. “On July 3, it’s going to be awesome to see the fruits of all their work come together.”
July 3 holds special significance as the first team in Major League Soccer repeats history that they started, opening the Black & Gold’s second soccer-specific stadium, Lower.com Field. On Saturday, Crew supporters hope for a win against the New England Revolution. For two hours all focus is on the field, but beforehand there will be new traditions and experiences created by supporters, ownership and the very players that don the black and gold.
For supporters new and old, here is what to expect from the Nordecke as the doors open at Lower.com Field.
The new goal celebration
Another plan, like a rain-soaked tifo, that didn’t go as planned was the announcement of a new goal celebration. Columbus Dispatch’s Jacob Myers shared the information, much to the chagrin of a majority of supporters that saw the news break online. The Nordecke responded with a statement including more details.
In the statement, the Nordecke shared that there will be three representatives from three staples of the team: someone from the Nordecke, a member of the Columbus community and a third person appointed by the team. All three will be in hard hats and ready to welcome supporters into the north wall.
On Saturday, 2008 MLS Cup Champion, and a Crew staple, Frankie Hejduk will represent the team. Representing the community is Jairo Alza, a former liaison for Crew supporters’ group La Turbina Amarilla and engineer on building Lower.com Field. For the Nordecke, supporter and designer Suzi Clow, who helped create the final Tifo at historic Crew Stadium, will represent.
For future home matches, no specific names were shared, but Barger expects supporters to be surprised. The Nordecke reached out to community members who they fully expected to be against the idea. Instead, they received resounding positivity about joining the Crew’s new tradition, a tradition started by the players themselves.
As a testament to the relationship within the locker room, the group of players brought the idea of incorporating a goal celebration to the entire team, which was then presented to the Nordecke. The Crew wanted to work with supporters on how to make the team’s new home an intimidating space for the opponent.
An idea of a jackhammer breaking through and chipping away at a steel plate featuring the opponent’s crest following a goal was what came about.
“A player involved said, ‘Maybe a sledgehammer, maybe a jackhammer?’ said Barger. “And the Nordecke, we said, ‘Are they going to let us have a jackhammer?’ Much to our surprise, ownership was like, ‘iF you guys want a jackhammer, that’s what we’re going to do.’”
Each broken piece of concrete will enter into a wall near the player tunnel. For years, visiting players will walk past goals scored on them by the Columbus Crew.
Jackhammers are just one example of team and supporter culture colliding. For years, supporters have belted out a Crewed up version of “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” referred to within Crew circles as “Wise Men.” What started as a chant by the Nordecke grew into a postgame celebration, with supporters throwing their arms around the shoulders of whoever’s around them, swaying back and forth through the lyrics until moving into a raucous “COLUMBUS” chant. In 2020, this shifted from a song in the north corner into something the team and entire stadium adopted after matches.
On June 30, team captain Jonathan Mensah and center back Josh Williams shared that, at the new stadium, the song will be sung as the players line up in the tunnel and prepare to take the field, as well as after each game.
“‘We’d really love to have wise men at the beginning at the end,’” explained Barger. “We have players that are new to the team that found that moment to be really meaningful and really helped tie them to the club and the community in a very visceral way. If adding that at the beginning psyched them up and built that bond up even more, it’s something at least we’re trying.”
Before supporters can sing “Wise Men” pre-match, they have to get to the stadium. On Saturday, the first team/supporters organized march starts at 3:45 p.m. ET in Columbus’ Short North district. When the front office reached out to the Nordecke, they were on different pages on where it should start. After discussing each side’s ideas, they landed on the current plan, outlined in the photo below.
Supporters have a variety of options on where they can join. Some supporters groups within the Nordecke are planning to do the entire 1.6-mile march.
Expect a lot of supporters to take part in the march, especially on a momentous occasion like Saturday. With the excitement of the new stadium, it’s hard to predict how many will arrive, even within the Nordecke.
“On Sunday, with our yard sale with La Turbina, the original projection was we’ll get 500 people as a typical audience for that,” said Barger. “We quit counting at 2,000. It was four times as big as we thought. Because everything is so new and so big and so much bigger, it’s hard to get an estimate.”
Making estimates even more difficult was the announcement that former Columbus and current Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen will lead the march, as if there wasn’t enough to be excited about for Crew supporters on Saturday.
Arena District Takeover
A big piece missing from the new stadium is the tailgating supporters are used to at historic Crew Stadium. A reason that the Nordecke selected Battelle Plaza as their rallying point is to take advantage of all the options in the Arena District. There will of course be black and gold flags and signs all around, but there are other initiatives that will stretch across businesses.
The Nordecke worked with local bars like Whistle & Keg, R Bar, Brothers, Gaswerks and Betty’s Bar on universal drink specials. Some will even have Endeavor Brewing’s Nordecke beer on tap. This is only the beginning though.
“July 3 is going to look different than July 17,” said Barger. “There will be some evolutions that take place there.”
The North Wall
Once the march arrives at the Southeast plaza of Lower.com Field, supporters not sitting in the Nordecke section can split from the group and enter into their gate. Ticketholders on the north wall will continue marching around the back of the stadium.
Everything about the section and how to get there is designed by supporters. Capos created the route to get fans to the north end of the stadium. Supporters are encouraged to have their tickets on their phones out, so there isn’t a larger hold up getting into the stadium.
“There will be people, high efficiency scanners, facial recognition,” said Barger. “We worked with (ownership) to get as many people through that as we can.”
After the group gets through ticketing, they will march into the Nordecke. Prior to entering the section, supporters will notice artwork displayed. Designers and artists within the Crew community were selected to put their mark on the Nordecke as something that will constantly change and owned by the supporters themselves.
Getting into the section as a unit falls in line with the goal of disrupting opponents. While the Revolution warms up on the field, a group of 2,000 strong will march into the section with flags, two-sticks, drums pounding and songs being sung. Waiting for them in the section will be the three hard hat-wearing representatives of the supporters, community and team.
“It’s going to be a moment where it’s like, ‘Yeah this is the heartbeat of the club,’” said Barger.
Saturday will be a start for the Nordecke, but how the supporters section fits into the stadium as a whole is a long-term goal. There aren’t any new chants to practice or times where the rest of the stadium is expected to jump up and join in specific songs this weekend.
“There’s going to be things that, as the season goes on, it will roll in and engage the rest of the stadium. But it all starts from the Nordecke, starts in the heart of the club and radiates out,” said Barger.
Something that everybody attending needs to do is keep their eyes and ears open. These traditions just begin to scratch the surface of what’s coming from the Nordecke at Lower.com Field. With a new stadium comes new traditions and new excitement. Make sure that you don’t miss any of it.