Stadium debris won't go to waste

Stadium debris not wasted Recycling: Much of the demolished Memorial Stadium will continue to serve -- as souvenirs and building materials.

March 12, 2001|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

So, the wrecking balls are falling on Memorial Stadium. Cheer up. They're not really destroying the old sports shrine; they're just going to, well, redistribute the place.

"It won't be landfilled. We're going to recycle 90 percent of the building," said Tim Collison, project manager for Potts & Callahan Inc., general contractor on the $2.6 million job.

Collison's wreckers have flattened the outfield bleachers, and they were busy Friday sorting through the rubble, separating concrete from metal.

"So far, that's all we've been allowed to do," he said last week.

But on Friday, the Maryland Stadium Authority gave him the all-clear, and Collison is ready to bring in all the men and equipment he'll need to level the rest of the place - except for the memorial wall - in about five months.

But demolition is not annihilation.

The bricks and concrete will be crushed, but you'll meet them again one day as riprap dumped to stabilize some sunny shore. Or, they may become the concrete base beneath a newly paved street. Steel reinforcing bars and other reusable metals will be sold for scrap and melted down for something shiny and new.(The bad stuff - hazardous materials such as paints, freon from refrigeration systems, PCBs from electrical transformers and lighting ballasts - have been recycled or safely discarded.)

The spectator seating, player lockers and other memorabilia have been sold off to fans and collectors. You'll see those again in somebody's clubroom. At least 25,000 more bricks will be cleaned, dressed up with brass plaques, and sold as souvenirs.

The memorial urn, containing soil from military cemeteries across the country, has been safely stored away, to reappear ... who knows where, who knows when? Ditto the lobby plaques commemorating the stadium's completion in 1954.

The cornerstone will be saved and turned over to the city or the Maryland Stadium Authority. Marble benches from the lobby have been moved to the Babe Ruth Museum.

If a compromise to save the stadium's 10-story memorial facade does not hold, the stainless steel lettering will be saved for a new memorial display at a site yet to be chosen.

The leftover scraps - carpeting, partitions, ceilings and other debris from meeting rooms, offices, the press box - have been stripped out and thrown away.

Collison says the seven-month demolition job isn't very complicated or high-tech as these things go.

"It's beating it with a ball and downsizing [the debris] with pulverizers. You just keep doing the same thing until it's done," he says.

But that doesn't make it easy, even for a guy who wrecks things for a living.

"It's bittersweet, it really is," said Collison, 51, a lifelong Baltimorean who spent many happy hours in the stands on 33rd Street.

"I guess I started going there when I was 6 - 45 years ago. And I took my three sons since they were in diapers. I saw Johnny Unitas' last game there, his last touchdown pass, World Series games. I was there at the last Colts game. It was a lot of fun then."

"But she's tired," he said, as if he were talking about an elderly aunt in failing health. The stadium's re-bar is poking through the deteriorating concrete. The emerald field and Pat Santarone's tomato patch are long gone, and the stands are ravaged.

"At least it's being done by a local firm with ties to the place," Collison said with a sigh, as if the stadium were a corpse and he the family undertaker.

Potts & Callahan was chosen from among 20 initial bidders - some from as far away as Massachusetts and Indiana. When the winning bid was announced, an unsuccessful competitor from Northern Virginia called Collison to congratulate him. Collison told him that "it would have broken my heart to watch a Redskins fan tear down Memorial Stadium."

Collison, brothers Paul and Chris, their father, grandfather and great-grandfather Peter Collison before them, have been doing this sort of work since before the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, which they helped to clean up.

After their family business - Harford Contracting - was purchased by Potts & Callahan in 1979, they continued the family tradition under the new corporate umbrella.

"We tore down Hammerjacks," he says, referring to the rock 'n' roll dance club razed to make way for parking for PSINet Stadium.

They also demolished the old B. Green Warehouse at Camden Yards to make way for Oriole Park.

In 1999, they worked with explosives experts from Controlled Demolition Inc. to bring down the old Navy radio towers in Annapolis and restore the site as a nature preserve.

Explosives could have been used on the Memorial Stadium job, Collison said, but the stadium authority opted not to.

"I think the final determination was based in large part on the wishes of the neighborhood," he said. "We won't use a [wrecking] ball over 3 tons, so we won't disturb the neighborhood. Bigger weights hit harder, but they make more noise."

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