It went as planned just like a scene straight out of a movie: A sequence of
explosions -- boom, boom, boom -- and then City Hall came crumbling down Sunday
The north wall of the building went first, like an accordion being squeezed. Then the glass walls broke. It took less than 10 seconds for the building to become rubble, a heavy dust cloud enveloping the landscape to the cheers and jeers of onlookers who appeared to be tailgating on nearby streets and rooftops.
With the help of a small breeze, the gray and white cloud headed east, leaving behind 1,000 truckloads of debris.
"Perfect, it went perfect," said Alan Shubert, the city engineer in charge of the ballpark project that will be built at the site. "Now we have a lot of cleanup to do."
A few broken windows were reported at an apartment in the nearby Old San Francisco Historic District, but Shubert said preliminary inspections showed everything went
smoothly and as planned. He said he had been especially concerned about the nearby Union Pacific Railroad trainway and its retaining wall, which showed no signs of damage.
"In our first look at it, it's just beautiful," Shubert said. "We'll of course take a much closer look, but there's nothing we can see at first inspection."
Street sweepers and crews with blowers and push brooms took to the streets -- and some nearby roofs -- immediately following the blast. Shubert said it will
take about two weeks to clear the site.
Crews with MacKay Demolition and Controlled Demolition Inc., the subcontractors hired to tear down the building to make way for a Triple-A baseball stadium, for weeks had been preparing the building to fall into its own footprint. About 400 pounds of dynamite were carefully planted in the building, whose insides had been gutted to allow the 18,800 tons of reinforced concrete and other materials to fall as planned.
The 120-foot wide banner emblazoned with the phrase "It's Happening ... Downtown," however, had other plans.
The banner was put on the building last week and was supposed to have kicked off the Downtown Management District's new marketing campaign to promote everything
It was blown onto the building's roof sometime Saturday, where it remained out of sight Sunday.
No major incidents were reported to police or other emergency crews, city officials said, thanking onlookers for being cooperative during the event.
Hundreds gathered around Downtown to watch the historic event, which many believe marks a new era in economic development in the heart of the city after years of failed plans.
"It's a new day," said Albert Martinez, who with his wife Amy walked by the former City Hall building before sunrise Sunday. "We came to say goodbye and good riddance. And quite frankly, to watch this thing go down will just be cool."
The demolition may not have buried the nearly yearlong controversy over the building's fate and the ballpark that will rise in its place over the next 11 months.
At least two protesters watched nearby, saying though their fight to save the 34-year-old building may be over, their opposition to erecting a ballpark in the 5.5-acre space remains.
"I told you I'd be here fighting until the last day," said Salvador Gomez, who opposed the building's demolition and headed two petition drives to try to save it.
"This should have been voter approved," he said.
In a prepared statement released Sunday, MountainStar Sports Group, the group bringing in a Triple-A Major League Baseball-affiliated team, said it believes the ballpark will represent "long-lasting, sustainable progress for our City."
The group hopes to have the San Diego Padres' farm team, the Tucson Padres, playing in El Paso next year. The group will lease the $50 million ballpark from the city.
The City Council last June approved building the ballpark at the site if MountainStar acquired a Triple-A minor league team. The group bought the team in September, and later that month contracted with the city to lease the ballpark once it's built. It's scheduled to be ready at the start of the season in April 2014.
"We look forward to watching El Paso's new ballpark rise from this site," the group said, "and hosting Opening Day 2014."
Cindy Ramirez may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6151.
(c)2013 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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