Usually a sign of destruction, the early morning smoke that rose from Grand Casino’s Island View Hotel along U.S. 90 in Biloxi was actually a beacon of recovery.
Harrah’s Entertainment, which owns the property, imploded the 12-story, 500-room tower closed because of damage it sustained after Hurricane Katrina last August. The demolition will make way for the future development of a destination resort in Biloxi planned by Harrah’s.
Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway, who pushed the button May 21 to implode the tower, said $1 billion would be invested in the new project. Harrah’s spokesman David Strow would not disclose how much the demolition cost Harrah’s.
It is expected to take at least a couple of years to complete a full resort on the site. But, Harrah’s plans to have a casino fully operating this year in a building that was part of the complex on the north side of U.S. 90.
The casino can operate in a land hotel, because the legislature approved land-based casinos near water after Hurricane Katrina.
Cherry Demolition of Houston, TX; Manley Brothers of St. Louis, MO; and Dykon Demolition of Tulsa, OK, are the major contractors involved with the demolition.
Approximately 400 lbs. of dynamite, placed on the first, second, third and fifth floors were used in the implosion of the U-shaped tower.
The tower’s center part, which faced east, collapsed first, followed by the inward collapse of the north and south sides of the building.
Strow said the demolition went perfectly.
“We’re currently in the process of refurbishing and repairing the site. In a few months, we’ll be announcing a larger project at that site,” he added.
The Biloxi property is the only one owned by Harrah’s on the Mississippi coast.
“We had a second casino in Gulfport, but we’re selling it. We want to focus our energies and investment at the Biloxi site,” said Strow.
Leonard Cherry, president of Cherry Demolition, said the concrete from the building went to a recycling center and that the steel was also being recycled. The debris, which totaled 5,500 loads, is being taken to a landfill by L’il Haulers, a Biloxi company, that was subcontracted by Cherry.
Approximately eight Cherry employees are working at the site along with some other subcontractors.
“We expect to be out of there by the first part of October,” said Cherry, who was president of the National Association of Demolition Contractors from 2000-02.
Cherry said Komatsu excavators are being used in the demolition.
“This job is a mixture of conventional and implosion application,” he added.
The excavators used on the job include: one PC 400 and two PC 300s. Another PC 400 and PC 600 were expected to join the fleet. In addition to demolishing the 12-story hotel, the project also involved removing several other buildings on the site, including two parking garages and a theater.
Cherry noted members of the demolition association were the first contractors after 9/11 and also went to Oklahoma after the Murrah Building was bombed.
“This is what we do. We’re not first responders. We’re second responders. We like to say demolition is the first step in reconstruction,” Cherry said.
Cherry said the National Association of Demolition Contractors is the only trade association that represents the industry in the continental United States.
Jim Redyke’s responsibility included placing explosives in the hotel and then completing the actual demolition. There were four personnel from Redyke at the site.
“As soon as the dust cleared, I was done,” said Redyke, owner of Dykon.
Redyke used a special drill on the front of a Cat 226 skid steer to drill holes in support columns before the explosion.
Cherry rammed out portions of the elevator in two different areas as preparation for the demolition.
“The unusual thing was the post tension construction in the hotel. It creates some unique challenges when it comes to demolitions,” Redyke said.
He said the post tension cables ran the continuous width and length of the building. “As the cables tighten up, pent up energy gets released and has the potential of throwing debris and concrete,” he added.
A structural engineer was consulted about the effect of demolition on the post tension construction, according to Redyke.
Jim Manley of Manley Brothers, which does marine survey work, was originally engaged by “the insurance arm” of Harrah’s. “Initially, nobody knew what was going to happen,” he said.
Manley’s company did an initial investigation and found out it wasn’t practical to put the casino barge back into the water. “We would have had to transport it across I-90,” said Manley.
He said it was the first time his company had been involved in doing demolition work.
“It worked great. We were engaged by Harrah’s to find demolition contractors based on performance and price. We had good contractors,” Manley said.
According to Manley, his company is doing additional demolition work at Gulfport, which involves demolishing or salvaging other barges. CEG