From their front yard, Lyle and Shirley Olson watched the Gage residence hall towers get built more than 50 years ago, and in 16 days they’ll watch them go down.
They live only a stone’s throw outside of the “exclusion zone” — the area within 1,000 feet of the towers, inside which the public will not be allowed.
But, after a Wednesday evening community meeting for nearby residents, they’re not worried. About two dozen people attended the event, at Minnesota State University.
Lyle was a bit concerned that a strong wind blowing to the southwest could coat his house with dust. A demolition expert, Thomas Doud, said the dispersal of the dust will depend on the weather. But he suggested that dust wouldn’t be a big problem for a resident who said he lived five blocks away from the site.
And Shirley asked whether nearby trees would be spared. She was told the trees around the future parking lot would be saved.
Doud, a project manager with Controlled Demolition Inc., said the towers will likely be brought down at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 29.
Even a strong wind or rain wouldn’t delay the demolition; the only weather that could cause a delay is low cloud cover. That’s because low clouds can re-direct and amplify the blast wave, potentially shattering nearby windows. But in Doud’s 23 years in the business a demolition has only been delayed once for the weather, and only then for a few hours.
The university decided to get rid of the towers because it would cost more to rehabilitate them. A consultant decided that demolition by explosives would be cheaper than the wrecking ball.
The demolition will cost about $1.25 million, on top of $1.2 million to remove contaminants like asbestos. MSU had estimated the demolition would cost $2.8 million.
The towers are being brought down with less than 300 pounds of dynamite. The explosives will be placed on the first, third and eighth floors of each tower, in a total of 650 drilled holes.
The explosives will be set to detonate first in the northwest part of the buildings, causing the rest of the buildings to crumble in that direction. This is being done to spare a utility tunnel to the south of the buildings.
As the demolition starts, onlookers can expect to hear a countdown followed by about 10 rifle-like booms in succession. These are “initiation blasts” and aren’t actually bringing down the building. That will happen after a two- or three-second pause.
The final sound is likely to be a cheer from the public viewing area in and around Blakeslee Stadium, the football complex at the corner of Warren Street and Stadium Road. Free parking will be available.
The demolition of the Gage residence hall towers will be about as loud as thunder; neighbors with skittish pets can prepare accordingly.
A stiff wind could move dust, but no debris should leave the site. That’s in part because of the thick curtains installed inside the building to prevent debris from flying out.
A consultant suggested that people nearby shut their air conditioners off just after the blast in case dust is a problem.
A seismologist has been hired to survey nearby buildings for existing damage and monitor the site on blast day.
The consultant, FEH Associates, hopes to recycle up to 90 percent of the building. That includes crushing up the concrete and using it in the parking lot that will replace the towers. It’s expected to be completed next spring.
Stadium Road will be closed at about 7 a.m between James Avenue and Warren Street. When it will re-open depends on how fast the dust could be cleaned up, but it will be later Saturday. There will also be lane restrictions before and after the blast to help move traffic, mostly along Warren Street.
Though the university is not sure how many people to expect, it is planning on being able to accommodate thousands of onlookers.