Delphi Comes Down

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A construction workers walks past the old Delphi plant on the city's West Side. The 1.7 million square feet building could be replaced by a casino.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)
A construction workers walks past the old Delphi plant on the city's West Side. The 1.7 million square feet building could be replaced by a casino.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)

Four years after it closed, the former Delphi Automotive plant is coming down. Demolition crews began tearing apart the behemoth building Monday morning. WOSU reports dozens of the plant’s former workers stopped by to see the building’s destruction and got their thoughts what could replace it – a casino.

Sandy Beesler leaned against the trunk of her car – sunglasses hiding eyes that earlier had teared up. She waited for demolition crews to get back from lunch, and back to work at tearing down the old Delphi Automotive plant.

Beesler started working at the plant in 1977 and retired just shy of 30 years. The Delphi plant, formerly owned by General Motors, has a long history in Beesler’s family.

“My father-in-law, when he came home from World War II, he was hired here. He worked here for 30 years. My husband, his son, worked here for 30 years. I met my husband here 33 years ago,” she said.

The plant began production in 1946. At its peak it employed about 55-hundred people.

Beesler’s story was a common one. Former Delphi employees, many with 30 years or more service, stood along the roadway or sat in their cars, as large equipment ripped steal from steal and shattered glass.

Penn National Gaming is tearing down the building with hopes voters will approve a statewide measure to relocate a Columbus casino to the West Side location.

Beesler, who lives in the neighborhood, recognizes a need for what she called a “revitalization” of the area. While she said a casino will help, she’s not sure if it’s the best answer.

“I know a casino will create a few jobs around here. I don’t think they’re going to be good paying jobs. Yeah, I’d rather see more manufacturing here,” Beesler said.

Penn National Gaming estimates some 5,500 jobs will be created between the casino’s construction and its opening. And all work on the demolition was local hires.

John Spohn worked at the plant from 1977 until it closed in 2006. Spohn, who lives on the South Side, sees a parallel between the two communities and thinks a casino could be the answer.

“I think that it could really help Columbus,” Spohn said.

Lou Spangler stood with Spohn at a fence separating the road from the construction site. Spangler was hired on at the plant in 1951 and retired after 35 years. He called the demolition sad.

“That’s not the saddest part. The saddest part to me is the 3,000 to 4,000 jobs that are gone. People made a lot of good money here; raised families,” Spangler said.

Spangler remembers when the area had opportunities for families, but not anymore. When asked about a casino he said, “It couldn’t hurt. I think it can help a little bit.”

Although voters have yet to approve the change in location for the Columbus casino, Penn National has moved forward with the alternative site. Penn Spokesperson Bob Tenenbaum said the company is confident voters will approve the change in May.

“I think this is a very visible demonstration to people, particularly in Columbus, that Penn National is very serious about this project and very serious about making sure that Issue Two is passed,” Tenenbaum said.

The plant’s demolition is expected to be finished by August.

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