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Clean Up Begins on Dome Demo

Wed February 25, 2009 - Midwest Edition
Lori Lovely

Groundbreaking for the then-named Hoosier Dome took place on May 27, 1982; its roof was inflated on Aug. 13, 1983; and it opened on May 3, 1984. The last event held in the Dome took place in April 2008. On Dec. 20, 2008, the four-story, 1 million sq. ft. (930,000 sq m) RCA Dome in Indianapolis was reduced to a large pile of rubble, due to 875 strategically placed explosive devices. Crews had placed 610 lbs. (277 kg) of nitroglycerin-based dynamite into pre-drilled holes in supporting columns on all four levels of the Dome prior to the implosion, which was briefly delayed by a passing train, an errant spectator.

Mark Loizeaux, president of Controlled Demolition Inc., based near Baltimore, Md., oversaw the implosion. Loizeaux also has been involved in the implosion of other Indianapolis buildings, including Market Square Arena.

The north and south sections of the stadium fell first, followed by the east and west sections and then the northeast, southwest, northwest and southeast corners, in that order. The implosion wasn’t intended to flatten the Dome completely; it was staged to bring down materials to safer levels for crews to remove, using large equipment at ground level. “Our goal is to quickly and safely reduce the upper seating level to several piles of rubble that can be processed and hauled off site,” Tom Scheele, senior vice president of Shiel Sexton Co. Inc., told reporters. Indianapolis-based Shiel Sexton is part of a joint venture with Powers & Sons of Gary as construction managers for the $275 million expansion of the Indiana Convention Center.

Good weather contributed to a successful and impressive implosion, blowing the resultant dust toward the industrial part of the city. While some crews inspected nearby buildings for signs of damage, others swept city streets, although Scheele commented that, “It went so well, we hardly needed to clean up.”

Gone in 60 Seconds

Although the implosion itself took only about 25 seconds, demolition work on the 24-year-old stadium began months before the impressive implosion. Scheele said preparations began as early as January 2008, initially concentrating on the number of existing exterior utility piping, mechanical and electrical systems that had to be relocated.

In addition, a comprehensive community outreach program was implemented in conjunction with Indianapolis Downtown Inc. to ensure business disruptions were minimized. Scheele said they worked diligently to avoid impact on the numerous downtown events. “It took a considerable amount of collaboration to set the implosion date,” Scheele said. “It was a challenge to schedule around so many things going on in downtown Indianapolis.”

It was concern for area businesses and events at the Convention Center that led to the previous assumption that the Dome would not be imploded. In 2007 the construction manager speculated conventional demolition would be used in place of explosives. The Associated Press quoted Scheele as saying, “This [project] doesn’t really lend itself to that.”

That thought changed: use of explosives was no longer precluded. Keeping in mind the proximity to Amtrak and CSX railroad tracks on one end and the still-functioning Convention Center on the other end, it was determined that limited use of explosives could be applied for faster, safer demolition without disruption of the railroads or the Convention Center, which David Frick, chairman of the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority (ISCBA) — managing construction of the Convention Center expansion — called “…the economic engine of this whole $1 billion project…” according to an Associated Press report.

Scheele explained the publicly bid project as originally conceived: “We set up the specifications and schedule based on meetings held with three national demo contractors, but we didn’t exclude implosion.” Of the 13 contractors who bid, the three low bids presented a combination of demolition methods, including implosion. “Implosion ultimately makes the job safer,” Scheele said, because it brings the materials within easy reach so crews aren’t working at higher elevations.

Roughly half of the demolition project was performed prior to the implosion through “conventional means” using excavators, shears, processors, grapples, loaders and other equipment. Scheele reported that approximately 80 to 100 workers involved in the project pushed to prepare for the implosion, doing “a minimum amount of overtime and shift work.”

Last September, the Dome’s 8-acre (3.2 ha) fiberglass-coated fabric roof was deflated after the four major fans were turned off. Weighing 257 tons (233 t), the air-supported roof was suspended 193 ft. (58.8 m) above the playing surface by air. Once that was flattened, the lower seating bowl was removed to make room at the field level for staging equipment, removing debris, facilitating trucking and providing for an efficient logistics plan. Crews also cut the Dome away from the adjoining Convention Center, leaving a 20- to 30-foot separation to facilitate implosion.

After the Dust Settles

The implosion was only a prelude to the real work, according to Lori Dunlap, deputy director of the ISCBA. She said the focus is to clear debris by February to prepare for expansion of the Convention Center, which is scheduled to open by the end of 2010.

“It’s critical to get the demo out of the way so we can start new construction in the northwest corner by February,” Scheele said. Demolition of the Dome will clear the way for the Convention Center expansion, scheduled to start one-third of the way through demo work. “We need to get enough debris out of the way to be able to start on the foundation. It needs to be safe.”

Outside, crews are digging on the south side of the property, expanding the site as much as possible within the tolerances allowed by the CSX railroad line. Inside, temporary exterior walls are being built during demolition. A retaining wall is being built while about one-third of the construction force concentrates on excavation, foundation, concrete and electrical work. Currently, he counts 10 to 15 pieces of heavy equipment working inside: loaders, excavators with large processing shears to cut steel and concrete and an electric magnet to separate materials headed for salvage.

One of the project’s biggest challenges, Scheele said, is working around the still-functioning Convention Center without disrupting activities. “All seven halls of the existing Convention Center are still being used.” During demolition and construction, additional fire escape exits had to be added to meet the complex egress and access codes for public safety.

Goals and Getting There

Demolition of the Dome cost approximately $13 million, according to Dunlap. The amount includes some site preparation for the Convention Center expansion and is part of the total $275 million project. One of the project’s biggest challenges, as Scheele saw it, is adhering to that strict budget. “We are very cognizant of the economic challenges the state faces and won’t spend a nickel more.”

Spending is closely monitored. “We are very proud of the high percentage of contractors and sub-contractors that come from Indiana,” Scheele said. However, one major contract went out of state: Sabre Demolition Corp. of Baldwinsville, N.Y., won the bid for demolition, with Controlled Demolition Inc. performing the implosion.

Another test is to meet the deadline. As with Lucas Oil Stadium, the Convention Center’s deadline is “all about the next big event.” Scheele notes that the Convention Center is scheduled for use in early 2011, making the necessary completion date the end of 2010.

The project is within budget and on schedule. In fact, the only overtime occurred during early demolition work in preparation for the implosion. “That was a critical path,” Scheele elaborated. “Everyone else has been on a five-day schedule — which helps keep us within budget.”

He said that correct scheduling and sequencing of activities at the beginning of the project has kept things running smoothly, although he admits that challenges, surprises and weather can adversely affect the best of schedules. Cold weather has slowed work marginally, although Scheele said there are ways to place and protect concrete even in harsh winter conditions. “Overall, we’ve been fortunate with weather,” he added.

Another goal reached by the joint venture is the percentage of minority- and women-owned businesses involved in the project. Although it cannot be mandated by law in Indiana, Scheele said their goal was to have participation by 15 percent minority-owned and 5 percent women-owned businesses. “Currently, we’re at a combined participation total of 28 percent. We have worked hard to achieve that percentage and are extremely proud of these results.”

According to a November 2008 report, $59.8 million has been committed in contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses out of a total of $214 million awarded. That represents 18.86 percent to minority contractors and 9.12 percent to women-owned firms.


After the implosion, debris is broken up on-site and either recycled, sold, donated or hauled to a local disposal site, David Sease, spokesman for the ISCBA, reported. One of the early considerations, Scheele revealed, was the plan to salvage as much as possible from the demolition. During months of planning, Shiel Sexton/Powers & Sons determined what could be reused in the new Lucas Oil Stadium, the existing Convention Center and the future expansion. In addition, the Colts auctioned items they owned, including seats, signage and the turf. Some fixtures were sold as souvenirs.

Other items were donated to community charities, but, as Scheele explained, it was all done at the discretion of the demolition contractor. “That was part of the bid.” For instance, Indy Parks & Recreation accepted dozens of pieces of the fabric from the roof to use as umbrellas at city pools and shelter covers in parks.

Dunlap estimated that 80 percent of the materials from the old building will be recycled in some way. Concrete is being crushed and recycled for use as road-building material. Metal is being sorted and sent to recycling facilities. “The carpet can be reused,” Dunlap told reporters. “The concrete goes into roads. The steel can be refabricated. As much as we can, we’ll make sure it doesn’t end up in a landfill.”

New and Improved

When work is finished, Indianapolis will have the country’s 16th largest convention center complex. The new Indiana Convention Center will have 566,300 sq. ft. (52.611 sq m) of exhibit space, with another 183,000 sq. ft. (17,001 sq m) in Lucas Oil Stadium, connected to the center via a walkway. There will be 63,000 sq. ft. (5,853 sq m) of meeting rooms and 103,000 sq. ft. (9,569 sq m) of lobby space.

The multi-functional Lucas Oil Stadium, with 63,000 permanent seats, features a retractable roof. The stadium opened in August 2008 and serves not only as the home of the Indianapolis Colts, but also will be the site of the 2012 Super Bowl.

Indianapolis has come a long way since the Hoosier Dome, the stadium built by the city before then-Mayor William Hudnut had a commitment from an NFL team to come to the Circle City. Built at a cost of $82 million as an expansion to the Convention Center, rather than as a stand-alone venue, it covered 7.25 acres (29 ha) — two city blocks — and offered permanent seating for 57,980. Nevertheless, it had become the smallest NFL stadium.

The city’s growth is often attributed to its central location within one day’s drive of more than half the nation’s population, with a new airport only 15 minutes from a revitalized downtown. The Convention Center is linked by skywalks to eight hotels and a mall. Other hotels, restaurants and attractions are within easy walking distance.

Operation of Lucas Oil Stadium has been turned over to the Capital Improvement Board of Managers of Marion County, which will also assume management of the new Convention Center expansion when it is completed in 2010.

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