Monday, December 30, 2002

Stadium goes down in 37 seconds

Cinergy/Riverfront falls in spectacular implosion

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer


See Cinergy Field come crashing down
(Glenn Hartong photos)
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Thirty-two years of Cincinnati history crumbled like a sand castle in 37 seconds Sunday morning, as a ring of detonations brought down Cinergy Field and two generations of sports memories.

The biggest implosion in Cincinnati's history saw 1,400 pounds of explosives, implanted in more than 2,000 places, rip apart the stadium's 18 supporting columns like they were a child's plaything.

The fiery detonations claimed the stadium's signature white steel girders, its concrete bleachers, the left-field wall that once held the retired jerseys of Red greats and even the 50-foot red-and-blue Cinergy Field signs that lit the downtown skyline.

Left behind was a 45-foot high circular pile of rubble and a gritty cloud of dust where the stadium had stood on the banks of the Ohio River since 1970.

"It rounded third and headed headlong into home," said longtime Reds announcer and Hall of Fame pitcher Joe Nuxhall.

Dan Finan of Fort Mitchell, who watched from Covington, described the stadium's collapse as "the final wave at Cinergy."

As the final chunk of Cinergy's 22,500 tons of steel fell, inspection crews raced to the $280 million Great American Ball Park - literally an arm's length away from Cinergy's outfield wall - to see if the Reds' new home had sustained damage. Other inspectors checked out the 140-year-old Roebling Suspension Bridge and the under-construction National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

All gave the OK sign.

"Not a scratch and very little dust. And not a single broken window," said Mike O'Rourke, president of the Linwood demolition company being paid $5.7 million by Hamilton County to bring down Cinergy and clear the site by Aug. 31. "I'd call it a good day."

For others, Cinergy's demise was painful.

"When the thing went down, I remembered being 5 years old, and watching the Reds with my grandparents and father. I can't believe it's gone," said Todd Sledge, 32, of Anderson Township. "It feels like the death of the Big Red Machine."

Tom Gray, a Fort Mitchell native, who returned home from Chicago to watch the implosion, also expressed remorse: "A lot of memories for me went down in all that dust."

The biggest adjustment will come in the days ahead when crews begin to remove the rubble and a new downtown skyline takes shape. For the first time since 1970, it will not include Cinergy Field.

"I'm going to miss it," said Jim Inglis of Withamsville. "It's part of the skyline, and it's like knocking the front teeth out of Cincinnati."

Ultimately the former stadium site will be transformed into the west plaza of Great American Ball Park, which will include the Reds Hall of Fame.

Opening Day is March 31, with the hall to open in 2004.

Animation from Enquirer photos
Video from WCPO
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