The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 29, 2013

This guy's job is a blast

Demolition expert Thomas Doud pronounced Gage Towers the 'perfect candidate' for implosion

By Brian Ojanpa

---- — MANKATO — Demolition expert Thomas Doud picked his way through the Gage Towers rubble Saturday and pronounced his work a success.

"Gage was the perfect candidate for the kind of work we do," Doud said of the two 12-story dormitory complexes at Minnesota State University that were imploded Saturday as thousands of spectators looked on.

"We're happy, the university is happy, and DORE (the demolition project's contracting firm) is happy."

After the thick dust cleared, the 3-story piles of rubble lay neatly mounded in their own footprints, with the building's concrete and brick reduced to remarkably small pieces.

Some of the leavings will be hauled away, but much of it will be crushed on site and used in construction of a 420-car parking lot where Gage has stood for nearly half a century.

Doud, who works for Maryland-based Controlled Demolition Inc., has been on the Gage site the past two weeks to prepare the buildings for their demises. He said he oversees up to 20 implosions a year, and when it comes to figuring out implosion logistics, no two are ever alike.

"I try to treat each building like a person. They all have their own personalities."

He said Gage's dictated that 244 pounds of dynamite be placed in 684 holes. When the explosion sequence began Saturday, each tower incurred 16 "initiation blasts" coming in rapid succession. The towers toppled less than a second apart. From ignition to rubble took 12.23 seconds.

Doud is a demolition expert by training but realizes that blowing up tall buildings also makes him a showman by default.

"This has become a spectator sport," he said. "We understand that and we cater to that."

Doud said in his 23 years in business weather conditions have forced only one implosion to be rescheduled. He said only lightning (for public safety reasons) and a low cloud ceiling (which can dangerously amplify blast waves) would have curtailed Saturday's event.