The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 28, 2013

Top 10 Story, No. 5: Iconic Gage towers came tumbling down

Thousands of alumni show up to see dorms imploded

By Robb Murray rmurray@mankatofreepress.com
The Mankato Free Press

---- — If awards were given to community events, it’s safe to say this one would win for “best drama.”

On a gorgeous and only slightly windy Saturday in June, Minnesota State University’s famed “twin towers” came down with a rumble and crash that could be heard and felt for miles around.

The implosion of the residence halls, the tallest structures in Mankato for more than 50 years, became a community spectator event. Thousands gathered at watch sites around campus, many recording the crash with cellphones or hand-held recorders.

Once the initial blasts were heard, it took 12.23 seconds for the towers to come down. Afterward, a thick cloud of dust rose, and once it cleared, all that was left of the towers was two piles of rubble.

On the date of implosion, a 1,000-foot radius “safe zone” was required around the site for 12 hours prior to and eight hours after the implosion. All buildings and grounds within that 1,000-foot radius were “off limits” during those hours. Those areas included Centennial Student Union, Wigley Administration Building, Morris Hall, Otto Rec Center, Highland Center, Pennington Hall, the three practice football fields and numerous other athletic and campus recreation venues.

In addition, Stadium Road was closed at Warren Street and James Avenue, as well as the West Road/Maywood route through campus.

After the implosion, most of the rubble was hauled away by trucks. Some, however, was crushed on site and will be used in the construction of a parking lot.

About 50,000 students have called the Gage residence halls home in its 47-year history, said President Richard Davenport in a statement. The first group of students moved into the $2.57 million building in 1965.

“Thousands of our alums have wonderful memories of living in the towers,” he wrote. “We are hoping for a great turnout in June to celebrate those memories.”

For one academic year of room and board in Gage in 1965, the cost was $630. Its final year in 2011-12, the cost was $6,555.

Gage’s demolition was possible because the university has built two new residence halls in the last five years. The new ones offer amenities Gage could not. Such amenities help MSU compete with other universities that are building new residence halls as well.