By Brian Ojanpa
---- — MANKATO — In the words of hillbilly explosion fetishists Big Jim McBob and Billy Sol Hurok on the old SCTV comedy show:
It's going to be blow'd up good. Blow'd up re-e-a-a-l good.
The 12-story twin towers of Minnesota State University's Gage dormitories will be imploded at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, an event expected to draw thousands of onlookers eager to watch Mankato's tallest buildings disappear in seconds.
Gage's demise is dictated by its age (built in the mid-1960s) and its outmoded no-frills, high-rise design for student housing.
But although school officials may be saying good riddance to a dated concept, many of the 50,000 students who have lived there see its end as bittersweet.
MSU Interim Director of Alumni Relations Jen Myers has been hearing that sentiment time and again.
"One alum asked if she and her husband, who she met there, could spend one last night in Gage."
Too late, Myers told her.
"I said, 'There's no windows or doors left. You'll be sleeping with the bats.' "
MSU is preparing for the event as if it were the world's shortest on-campus carnival.
All manner of Gage memorabilia will be on sale in the Maverick Midway, the area between Blakeslee Stadium and the football practice fields that will serve as the main public viewing area.
Myers said more than 200 Gage student mailboxes have been sold to alumni as souvenirs, and hundreds more will be available Saturday.
The school has also laid in 500 tongue-in-cheek Gage commemorative T-shirts.
The backs will bear the top 12 alumni-submitted "Gage quotes" — those deemed printable for public consumption, that is.
"There were some quite inappropriate ones." Myers said.
The most popular Gage-ism submitted: "Hold the 'vator," a reference to the towers' tortoise-slow elevators. Miss one and you might as well have napped until it came back.
—A $500 Kwik Trip gift card will go to the person who correctly guesses how much time it will take for the towers to fall following the ignition of 300 pounds of strategically placed dynamite. The $1 guesses can be purchased at the Alumni Foundation Center on Warren Street across from the campus.
—People can watch the implosion on a live-streaming website. To connect with the the link go to mnsu.edu/gage.
— Free breakfast items will be served to spectators in the viewing area and hour-long campus tours will be available after the demolition.
— Blakeslee Stadium will be open to the public, although the prime viewing spots along the top row of the bleachers is limited. Gates on Warren Street leading into the viewing areas will open at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.
Mankato Department of Public Safety Operations Commander Dan Schisel said traffic and parking logistics will be similar to the Fourth of July fireworks shows held for years at Blakeslee Stadium, with public parking available in Lots 20-23 east of the stadium.
Stadium Road between James Avenue and Warren Street will be closed at 7 a.m. Saturday and open sometime later that day following cleanup from the demolition.
There also will be lane restrictions in the area, mostly on Warren Street, before and after the implosion to aid traffic flow.
As for how many people will show up to watch Gage go down, Schisel said that's anyone's guess.
"I've heard it range anywhere from a couple thousand to many thousands."