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Light it up! Mike Polk Jr. takes us behind the scenes at the Terminal Tower

Have you ever wondered who decides which colors will light up the tower each night? Mike Polk Jr. decided to find out.

CLEVELAND — Have you ever looked up at the Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland and wondered why they decided to illuminate it with a certain color?  And also, who exactly are “They”: These modern day lighthouse keepers who are essentially responsible for declaring that “this is what our city cares about right now”, based on their color choices. That’s an awesome responsibility. And as it turns out, there are but a select few people trusted to wield this awesome power, including Matthew Rinker and Matthew Driggs of The K&D Group, Inc., who were kind enough to invite me into the heart of the beast for a Terminal Tower Technician Tutorial. It was an eye-opening affair.

I’ll be honest, I thought that lighting up a giant landmark (at one time the second tallest building in the world), would be a far more arduous undertaking. I envisioned a team of six scientists in lab coats, perpetually fussing about a giant 1960’s style mainframe computer, adjusting various knobs and dials and monitoring crucial readings.

Not so much. It’s actually just an app on their phones. They have the ability to instantly adjust the lights with the same ease that one might cruise through an early level of Candy Crush.

You won’t be surprised to learn that they receive plenty of personal color requests from people and organizations. Some they’re able to make work, many, they can not abide.

Both Matts cited Gender Reveal Parties as one of the most frequently heard lighting requests from the general public that they are unable to accommodate. In my opinion this is an excellent policy that I fully support.

The gents were even kind enough to offer me a first-hand look at the 44th floor where much of the lighting magic happens. And I’ll tell ya, there are far worse views of our city.

Once I had established a rapport with my gracious hosts I determined it was the right time to ask them for a minor indulgence. Earlier that day on the What’s New Facebook page, I asked our most cherished viewers what color they’d like to see on the Tower and why, in the event that the gatekeepers might be willing to indulge us. Here’s my invitation in case you missed it:

Greetings, Cherished What's New Viewing Family!

I'm doing a story tonight about The Terminal Tower that's specifically focused on how they determine what color to illuminate it and how that process works. 

 If you're unfamiliar, they often change the color dependent upon what is going on in the world. If there's a big Cavs game, it'll be wine and gold. If it's the 4th of July, red white and blue. It was recently blue and yellow as a show of support for Ukraine. 

So, who makes that call? And how do they decide how long to leave it that way? And what events are considered too trivial or unimportant to acknowledge? 

 For example January 31st is National Zebra Awareness Day, but they don't light the tower up with black and white. Why not? Is it because no one asked? Can the zebra lover community petition for inclusion or does it not work that way?

You get it, it's the same sort of hard-hitting, Big J Journalism that you've come to expect from the reporter who brought you such groundbreaking exposes as the "Who Stole The Sasquatch Statue That Was Standing Outside The Cuyahoga Falls BBQ Restaurant?" story from last fall.  

Any ways, here's where I need your help: I'm hoping that the Tower City Ambassadors with whom I'll be speaking this evening will be kind enough to let me commandeer the Terminal Tower lights for about 10 minutes and change it to whatever colors I desire. 

I have not yet apprised them of this plan but I'm proceeding as if it's a done deal. 

So here's your chance folks:

Tell me what color or colors you would like to change the Terminal Tower to tonight and tell me why. We will select our 5 favorite submissions and include them in our requests. 

Who knows? All of Cleveland might get to see your colors in action tonight.

The response from our viewers was overwhelming and fortunately, The Matts were down for it and proved exceedingly gracious.

So, if you happened to be downtown the other night and were wondering why The Terminal Tower lights seemed to be short circuiting, fret not. That wasn’t a tech issue, that was just the good natured guardians of an iconic Cleveland landmark allowing our viewers to briefly set the mood for entire city.

More from Mike Polk Jr.

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