John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Fun facts from Sunday's massive implosion of the O-Rena, erstwhile home to the Magic.
• The honest-to-god motto of the company doing the imploding, Dykon Blasting Corp., is "We Rock." And who's going to deny that? Explosives experts tied more than 500 pounds of dynamite charges to the O-Rena and set it off in a staggered series of kabooms to reduce "air blast," the tsunami of pressure spread by large detonations that can knock out windows miles away. They opted to trigger the explosives with a shock tube and det cord instead of electricity, to reduce the risk of one of Florida's regular lightning storms accidentally igniting the whole package.
• The supreme takedown of the O-Rena, home of the Orlando Magic since 1989, broke the city's long drought of pants-wetting explosions. The last blowout of this size occurred in 1991, when de-construction crews shattered the old City Hall using dynamite and a secret sauce of pyrotechnics, a fire-spitting fusillade that graced the opening of Lethal Weapon 3.
• Officials didn't want the explosion to be too major at first due to fears the collapsing building might rupture an important, underground water pipe. So the initial plan was to drop its roof "like a bad souffle" and tear down the walls later. But then, perhaps sensing that plan made everybody involved sound like a wuss, they just padded the ground above the pipe and exploded the whole shebang. The resulting blast was so strong that a man walking several blocks away was cut by a flying hunk of rebar. (Dykon's president paid his medical bills.)
• Orlando plans to recycle most of the debris from the crumpled structure, using the pulverized concrete as a foundation for a new project known as the Creative Village. This 68-acre conglomeration of residential, educational and commercial structures is meant to nurture the area's growing tech industry; it will be a "place where high-tech companies locate" and "employees of those businesses and other residents live, work, learn and play."
• The O-Rena cost $102 million to build and, at 23 years of life as of Saturday, was still quite youthful. But owner and Supreme Amway Leader Rich DeVos didn't like that the arena didn't include luxury and club seats, according to the Field of Schemes' Neil deMause. He adds:
On September 29, 2006, the City of Orlando and Orange County finally came to an agreement on a $1.1-billion improvement package that included $480 million for a new arena. The Magic would provide $114 million in cash and up-front lease payments and guarantee $100 million in bonds toward the arena. The venue plan received final approval on July 26, 2007, and the arena was completed in time for the 2010-11 NBA season.
In other words, the old arena wasn't making enough money for DeVos' tastes, and spending $75 million on renovations would only make profits go down. But an entirely new arena that cost six times that amount was just what the doctor ordered, so long as taxpayers paid most of the tab and the Magic kept all the revenues.If you want the template for stadium and arena development over the last 20 years, there it is in a nutshell.
• The first salvo of detonations, seen in this video of the implosion, kind of make it look like the O-Rena smiles briefly before it collapsing into oblivion: