Monday, April 15, 2013

History Made: Asarco Smokestacks, Former City Hall Demolished

Events went largely as planned this past weekend as the dormant Asarco smokestacks and the former City Hall building were demolished on consecutive mornings in El Paso.

The former City Hall building took only 10 seconds to be demolished.
Saturday morning saw the towering Asarco stacks fall over like chopped-down trees as explosives helped fell the historic columns. Spectators gathered in parking lots around UTEP and on the sides of surrounding streets, though Interstate 10 and Paisano Drive were closed for the event. The boom of dynamite at each column’s base signaled the coming fall, and in seconds both stacks were gone.

A slight breeze brought dust from the demolition over I-10 and may have been more than expected; the freeway remained closed for over two hours total, longer than planned and causing expected congestion on Mesa Street due to diverted traffic. Otherwise, the mostly calm morning air helped to keep the dust near to the ground, and officials could have hardly received more cooperative weather.

Winds were stronger during City Hall’s demolition on Sunday, though officials had previously stated that wind strength would not be a factor in their decision to proceed. Precisely at 9:00 a.m., explosives brought down the building in a matter of seconds. The northern half of the structure went first, and helped pull down the southern section, most likely in order to pull the southern facing wall away from the nearby railroad trench.
Dust from City Hall's implosion took over downtown as winds blew it towards the east.
Clouds of dust quickly drifted eastward as breezy conditions turned windy, engulfing downtown’s highrises in an eerie haze. Unlike the Asarco aftermath, piles of rubble many feet high could be seen after City Hall’s implosion. Officials stated that cleanup would begin immediately.

Both demolition events this weekend help prepare the properties for future use. Asarco is currently in the middle of a years-long remediation project that will clean up the site and make it viable for future sale. Project Navigator, Ltd., of California is in charge of the site’s remediation and sale.

After clearing up the rubble, the former City Hall site will see construction begin on a 9,000 seat baseball stadium that will house the San Diego Padres Triple-A club, currently in Tucson. Opening day is schedule for one year from now in April of 2014.

Mountain Star Sports Group, the team who purchased the baseball club and is bringing it to downtown, released a statement just before City Hall’s demolition, stating, "We believe the new ballpark represents long-lasting, sustainable progress for our City. We appreciate the vision of our Mayor and City Council and thank them for their commitment to bring Triple-A Baseball to El Paso and to build this significant asset in the heart of our City - for all El Pasoans.  We are dedicated to providing affordable family entertainment in a fun and safe environment.  There is much work to be done between now and next spring, and we look forward to watching El Paso's new ballpark rise from this site and hosting Opening Day 2014."