Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Cinergy could blast into past

Plans under way for stadium implosion

By Dan Klepal, dklepal@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cinergy Field has stood for 32 years. It could fall in 20 seconds on Dec. 29 at just past 8 a.m.

        That's how and when construction managers building the new Great American Ball Park envision the implosion of the stadium.

Riverfront/Cinergy will be demolished after this season to make way for the rapidly emerging Great American Ballpark.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        Although a final decision is still about six weeks away, documents obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer show that much of the groundwork for an implosion has already taken place.

        Managers have met with state and city environmental, health and building officials. A plan is in hand for stripping the interior of the building, including walls that do not support the facility's weight, and bringing down the husk with more than a thousand 1 1/2-pound charges of nitroglycerin.

        The trick is doing so without causing harm to anything nearby, such as the new ballpark, Roebling Suspension Bridge or Fort Washington Way.

        Mike O'Rourke, president of demolition contractor O'Rourke Wrecking Co. of Cincinnati, is certain that can happen.

        “The stadium lends itself to explosives, as opposed to a high-rise building, which would fall much faster in a much smaller area,” Mr. O'Rourke said.

        “In this case, because the (stadium's) footprint is so large and the charges delayed over 20 seconds, the force is spread out farther and there is much less vibration,” he said.

        Construction managers aren't really worried about flying debris, or even the vibrations caused by the explosions or the stadium crashing to the ground.

        Early tests indicate that only 25 percent of the allowable level of vibrations would be caused by the event. And by allowing a maximum of 5 pounds of explosives to ignite at any one time, flying debris would be kept to a minimum.

        Their biggest concern is the rush of air created by the collapse. Giant mats would cover glass and the outer skin at the new ballpark; large steel-bodied dump trailers would form a barrier between the new and old stadiums to absorb the blow.

        “The air concussion is what causes broken windows,” Mr. O'Rourke said.

        The other concern is making sure all materials containing asbestos — floor tiles and pipe insulation — are removed before implosion.

        In addition, the stadium's canopy must be removed by hand because the metal is coated with a material called “galbestos,” which could be harmful if it breaks apart into small, breathable particles.

        A final decision by county commissioners on whether to implode will come in June, after Mr. O'Rourke's company submits a report detailing such things as security, traffic control, public viewing areas and debris removal.

        Permits will have to be granted by the city's building department to allow explosives inside the stadium and from the city fire department to allow the transportation of the explosives.

        Cooperation from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is needed to restrict boat traffic on the Ohio River and the state Department of Health must be convinced that an implosion would be safe to the environment.

        Tom Gabelman, consulting attorney for Hamilton County's riverfront development projects, said the environmental concerns have been allayed and he's certain that all the permits can be acquired.

        Hamilton County officials, who are building the new ballpark, think implosion offers some distinct advantages over the wrecking ball. Namely:

        • Not exposing workers to extreme heights for extended periods of time to cut steel.

        • Reducing the demolition schedule from 12 months to 9 months.

        • Reducing inconveniences, such as dust and noise, by bringing the stadium down in a heap rather than piece by piece.

        Implosion would cost about $5.7 million, compared to the $4.5 million original contract for a conventional demolition.

        But bringing the building down quickly would save money by allowing related projects such as building the parking garage for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and completing the intersection of Main Street and Mehring Way to proceed more quickly.

        “We found it to be a no-brainer for us,” said Mike Sieving, construction project executive for Hamilton County, adding that an exact figure for the savings isn't available.

        Mr. Sieving said implosion would be similar to cutting down a tree and forcing it to fall in a certain direction. He attended the implosion of Market Square Arena last year in Indianapolis and said the sound and feel of the event would be similar to Riverfest — without the bursts of color.

        In fact, street and bridge closures and boat restrictions on the Ohio River would all be very similar to Riverfest, Mr. Sieving said.

        “It's that sound and that thump you feel in your chest when fireworks go off,” Mr. Sieving said.

        Thousands of people turned out in Pittsburgh, when Three Rivers Stadium was brought down with dynamite last year. Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta also provided a model of how it would work, because that stadium was about the same size and, like Cinergy, was surrounded by other structures.

        The county and O'Rourke already have an agreement to split any revenues from the event. Mr. Sieving said it's too soon to say what types of marketing opportunities would present themselves, and how much revenue might be brought in.

        “That's the fun part that we can think about later if we decide on implosion,” Mr. O'Rourke said.


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