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Later Three Rivers implosion hailed as a dynamite decision

Thursday, January 25, 2001

By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The decision to move the Three Rivers Stadium implosion back one hour wasn't made so people could get a little extra sack time before coming down for the big event.

It also wasn't based on letting spectators party a little longer at Mount Washington restaurants before the concrete walls come tumbling down.

Safety, not socializing, is the reason for the later start -- 8 a.m. instead of 7 on Feb. 4 -- said Sports & Exhibition Authority spokesman Greg Yesko.

"We wanted to make sure we'd have adequate daylight and adequate safety," he said yesterday.

He said a number of tasks must be done inside the doomed stadium on the morning of the implosion. Wires must be strung to connect the 2,700 sticks of dynamite that will be inserted next week into holes in the support columns of the giant structure.

Employees of Controlled Demolition Inc., the firm doing the implosion, will make a physical inspection of the stadium that morning and then will radio implosion headquarters -- in a parking lot on General Robinson Street -- that all is safe to proceed. Adequate daylight is vital for both tasks, he said.

Yesko did say that "certain groups" who plan to hold implosion parties on boats floating in the rivers or in restaurants atop Mount Washington had suggested the later blast time "to facilitate social functions."

He didn't want to say who had made the requests, but said, "We tried to be as accommodating as possible," while still ensuring the safety of workers.

Alex Colaizzi, manager of the LeMont Restaurant, which is holding an elegant $50 per person breakfast, said he hadn't asked city officials to delay the implosion. He said it didn't really matter to him whether the blast occurred at 7 or 8 a.m.

"We are happy with the change, but the original time would have been fine," he said. "I think it's better for the city to have more daylight. It also gives us another hour to prepare" for the gala breakfast to be served.

Brian Bouch, manager of the Grandview Saloon, also said he hadn't requested a later time in order to please his diners. He agreed it would be easier to see the event with the greater amount of daylight at 8.

He said he was still "getting swamped with calls" for his $20 per person breakfast buffet, but has taken only 125 reservations in the restaurant, which seats 300, preferring to do the rest on a first-come, first-served basis.

Also busy on implosion morning will be Suzanne Gradisek, special events director for the Gateway Clipper Fleet, which will have four "public" boats crammed with 1,500 people and another privately chartered boat out on the rivers that morning.

She said she had nothing to do with delaying the implosion.

"We had planned to sail from 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and we will still do that," she said.

Yesko said that the original plans called for the plunger to be pushed "about" 7 a.m. Then last week, officials pushed the time back to 7:26 a.m., which is when sunrise is expected that day. Then, on Tuesday, they settled on 8 a.m.

The time of the implosion couldn't be pushed back later than that because of the annual Pirate Fest, an event held by the Pirates to get people excited about the new baseball season. It draws thousands of people each year.

The final day of this year's three-day event, to be held at the Carnegie Science Center, will be that Sunday -- Feb. 4.

The science center is situated within the "blast zone," the perimeter of about 1,000 yards around Three Rivers where no one will be allowed to go during the implosion.

"The Pirates were gracious enough to move the start of their event back to noon" to accommodate the blast, Yesko said.

Originally, Pirate Fest was to start at 10 that morning, but several hours will be needed to clean the streets around Three Rivers of the dirt, dust and debris generated by the collapse of the stadium. Road sweeping equipment and high-powered hoses will be used.

Pirates Vice President Steve Greenberg said that Sports & Exhibition Authority officials did contact the team before deciding to delay the implosion. Greenberg said the one-hour delay won't hurt Pirate Fest.

"We have enough leeway" to finish the cleanup, he said. "For the safety of our fans, noon is the best time to open Pirate Fest that day."

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