Three Rivers Stadium falls quickly, without incident

| Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, 11:45 a.m.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Feb. 12, 2001, edition of the Tribune-Review.

Three Rivers Stadium fell like a champion Sunday, reduced to 60 feet of rubble in 19 seconds flat.

It was an imposing final statistic for an imposing structure that dominated the North Shore skyline for 30 years.

The stadium fell in a heap, sending a cloud of dust billowing into the air. But the implosion that shook the ground was nothing compared to the way fans once rocked the North Side stadium during the glory years of the 1970s.

The Steelers' new home, being built just 60 feet away, escaped unharmed.

There were no injuries and the roads and bridges around the stadium were reopened 15 minutes after the blast, Pittsburgh police said.

A group of teenagers tried to find a shortcut from Mt. Washington to Station Square after watching the implosion.

One scrambled to safety on his own, but another three youngsters got stuck about 100 feet down a 300-foot cliff. Pittsburgh paramedic April Slifko rappelled down the cliff and rescued the trio.

Police said none of the boys was injured.

To lessen the vibrations from Three Rivers, crews designed the blast so the stadium would fall section by section, like dominoes, instead of in one big thud.

At 7:59 a.m., several flashes lit up the interior of the stadium and it looked briefly as if Three Rivers might withstand the dynamite. Several more booms then echoed off the hillsides, vibrations rippled underfoot and the old gray lady toppled to the ground.

Doug Loizeaux, vice president of Controlled Demolition Inc., the Phoenix, Md.-based firm handling the implosion, said seismographs positioned around the stadium barely registered.

The vibrations were negligible, Loizeaux said. It's a success for everyone involved.

Marty Neaman, a PennDOT bridge inspector, said the blast blew a few pebbles onto nearby interstate roads, but those were quickly swept up. The bridges and roads were not damaged.

It was very clean, very impressive, said Steelers spokesman Ron Wahl.

A preliminary review revealed no damage to the Steelers' new stadium, he said. Crews will examine the building more thoroughly over the next few days to ensure there were no hidden cracks or dings, Wahl said.

Sports & Exhibition Authority spokesman Greg Yesko said the Pirates' new venue also was unaffected.

Guy Costa, Pittsburgh's director of public works, said debris left behind by spectators would be a bigger cleanup job than clearing the dust that settled on Point State Park and on some parts of Downtown.

Costa said crews would begin cleanup immediately. City crews were assisted by water trucks and sweepers supplied by Bianchi Trison Corp., the Syracuse, N.Y. firm hired to tear down the stadium.

A spokesman for Bianchi said crews would begin clearing the stadium site right away.

Three paths, each 120 feet wide, will be cut through the debris to make way for roads connecting the new Steelers stadium to PNC Park, the Pirates' new home set to open in April.

All the debris should be cleared from the site by April 27, Yesko said.

Michele Papakie, Pittsburgh police spokeswoman, said the event went off without a hitch and traffic was moving smoothly soon after the implosion. She said there were no arrests.

Several thousand people watched the implosion, but because people were so spread out — in buildings, in Point State Park, along Mt. Washington — authorities said it was difficult to provide a crowd estimate.

Lt. Tom Ottenwaelder of the U.S. Coast Guard said 15 kayakers braved the waters off Point State Park, along with about 10 pleasure crafts. They were joined by sightseers on two Gateway Clipper Fleet boats and normal river traffic.

Ottenwaelder said no one was cited for trying to get too close to the action.

At 7:50 a.m., a siren wailed, signaling the safety zone around the site was all clear and the blast was a go.

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