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DEMCO Tackles Orange Bowl Demolition

Tue April 08, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Jeff Brooks

When it comes to demolishing historic sports venues, Decommissioning & Environmental Management Company (DEMCO) has some experience, having knocked down Cleveland Stadium just a few years ago.

But that experience wasn’t the only reason the West Seneca, N.Y.-based company bid on the contract to demolish the landmark Miami Orange Bowl.

There was a more personal reason.

“My father wintered about 20 miles from there,” said DEMCO Vice President Kevin Callahan. “He was a big sports fan and that’s why we bid on it. I haven’t been to a game at the Orange Bowl, but my father took me as a kid to go look at the stadium.”

Opened in 1937 as Roddy Burdine Municipal Stadium, the Orange Bowl, located west of downtown Miami in Little Havana, was the home stadium for the University of Miami Hurricanes football team. It also hosted the Miami Dolphins until the opening of then Joe Robbie Stadium, now Dolphin Stadium, in 1987 and was the site for five Super Bowls. The stadium was renamed in 1959 for the Orange Bowl Classic college football game, which was played at the stadium from 1937 to 1995.

In January, Mounted Memories, a Sunrise, Fla., company, began the process of dismantling pieces of the stadium that were sold at a public action in February.

Benches, lockers, turnstiles, awnings, the scoreboard, the podium where coaches held news conferences, the chalkboard used by University of Miami football coaches, historical photographs on stadium walls and even urinals were sold to the highest bidder. The classic orange seats are being sold at set prices ranging from $40 to $500.

“We are thrilled to work with the city of Miami and the team assigned to the final days of the Orange Bowl. We wanted to do something special, more than just simply sell off the assets,” said Ross Tannenbaum, president of Mounted Memories. “Our goal is to make the memories of one of Miami’s iconic structures continue on into the future and to offer sports fans nationwide a chance to maintain their own memories of the Orange Bowl.”

Proceeds from the memorabilia sale will help defray the cost of demolition, estimated between $5 million and $7 million.

Callahan said the demolition isn’t as complex as it might seem.

“The basic construction is very similar to what you would see in a power plant or a heavy industrial manufacturing facility,” Callahan said. “We’re using basically trackhoes. We’ll cut and pull it. We’ll cut the vertical columns beforehand and then trip sections, maybe an entire seating section. [We’ll] use the expansion joints between the sections as separations.”

DEMCO owns its equipment and has hired subcontractor PDG to handle asbestos removal. Crews have until July 1 to finish the job, but Callahan said “we’re hoping to be out there sometime in June.”

Along with trackhoes, they have loaders and dump trucks to haul away the debris. There are about 25 workers onsite, all on a single daytime shift.

While Callahan sees the demolition as pretty standard, he said the biggest challenge will be disposing of the debris.

“The only real thing that has come up is the debris in the stadium,” Callahan said. “You don’t notice it but the concessions stands, the bathrooms, they all end up adding up to more debris than you think.”

First up will be removing the debris so they can keep the concrete and steel, which will be resold, separate.

Like many construction projects these days, DEMCO is thinking about the green aspect of the demolition.

“The city of Miami has a green program and everything that can be recycled is being recycled,” Callahan said.

Though the Orange Bowl is located in a residential neighborhood, Callahan said the demolition won’t have much impact on surrounding residents.

“There should be minimal delays and inconveniences to the people,” Callahan said. “The neighborhood is right up against the stadium. As far as stadiums go, it’s pretty close but there’s enough room for us to work and not really impact the neighborhood.”

While the Orange Bowl will be history when the job is done, the site will begin a new sports era.

The Florida Marlins baseball team and the Miami city and county commissions have approved a proposal to build a new 37,000-seat ballpark on the site though there still are some nagging details to work out. The Marlins must return to the Miami-Dade County Commission with an agreement on a formula for determining security-personnel use between the county and city of Miami. The commission also wants to hear of how much progress the team is making in achieving labor peace with concession workers.

But those considerations aren’t expected to sidetrack the deal.

“Now this is a binding agreement,” said Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. “We have a deal to keep baseball in Miami.”

Construction is scheduled to start by November, with the stadium ready for the opening of the 2011 season. The team also would change its name to the Miami Marlins.

The Marlins said the stadium cost is estimated at $525 million, and the city has agreed to build an onsite, 6,000-space parking lot at an additional cost of around $94 million.

The team said Miami-Dade County would contribute up to $347 million and the Marlins $155 million.

The county-owned stadium will have a retractable roof to eliminate the disruption caused by late afternoon rain during the South Florida summer.

The Marlins, who have said they cannot survive in South Florida without a new ballpark, have played in Dolphin Stadium since the team was founded in 1993. They have been pushing for a new stadium for years. In May, the Florida Legislature failed to approve a $60 million subsidy to help build a new stadium.

So when the Orange Bowl demolition is done, will DEMCO stick around to help build a new chapter in Miami sports history?

“No,” Callahan said. “We’re tearing it down and looking forward to our next project.” CEG

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