2nd down

2nd down

Features - Cover Story

Detroit's Adamo Group uses explosives to help bring down two sizable football stadiums in late 2017.

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January 23, 2018
Brian Taylor
Photo by Detroit Drone

Sports fans tend to use stadiums and arenas as geographic markers—places with familiar names they see on TV regularly that distinguish their host cities as top-tier American destinations.

Fans of hockey, basketball, baseball and football are familiar not only with the nearest such facilities, but can name many of the arenas and stadiums that host professional teams from coast to coast.

Thus, when a stadium reaches the end of its life, it marks a demolition project that gains national attention. This is only amplified if implosion is used as a technique in any such project.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, the Detroit-based Adamo Group was at the center of attention for not just one such project, but for being the lead contractor on the implosion and demolition of two former football stadiums taken down within weeks of each other.

In November 2017, an implosion brought down the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta while the following month a series of charges brought down the top mechanical ring of seats in the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, near Detroit.

GOING OUT WITH A BANG

Richard M. Adamo, president of the 54-year-old family business, says stadiums are prime candidates for implosion.

Adherence to a tight schedule can provide one reason to favor implosion, which was the case with the Georgia Dome. Additionally, despite the noise and dust associated with an implosion, the technique also is much safer for workers, Adamo says.

“These structures are very conducive to implosion because of their design—their bowl shape,” Adamo says. “Most of them are in the open, and from a safety standpoint, it’s quickly on the ground.”

Thus, once the dust has cleared from an implosion, workers operating excavators, loaders and other mobile equipment are dealing with materials at ground level that do not present the possibility of falling from above, as would be the case if they were “chewing” away at upper-level seating.

The two stadiums may each have hosted an implosion, but they did not present identical challenges for the Adamo Group. The Georgia Dome project involved not only a tight timeline, but also a tight squeeze relative to nearby structures.

Photo by Multivista

“The Georgia Dome had two active structures next to it—the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Georgia World Congress Center,” Adamo says. The new stadium was 83 feet away from the old one, he notes, but “the Congress Center was merely 6 to 8 inches away in certain areas.”

He continues, “To top it off, the MARTA [Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transit Authority] underground train system ran right between the two stadiums.”

A controlled implosion, however, allowed the Georgia Dome to come down without harming its neighbors while also adhering to a tight time schedule required by the property’s owners and developers.

“The intent was to start this project in March or April 2017 with a mid-July implosion,” says Adamo. However, that schedule was pushed back by the owner, he notes.

Despite the delayed demolition start, the project's end date never changed. “We had to blast it and immediately clean it up—that’s one factor why implosion was chosen over conventional demolition. Conventional methods would have taken a lot longer; you could double or triple your timeline with conventional equipment,” Adamo says.

Conditions were thus in place for an implosion of the Georgia Dome that took place on Nov. 20, 2017. The implosion was broadcast live on local television.

The Pontiac Silverdome project involved different considerations, says Adamo, with neither the tight timeline nor nearby buildings that complicated the Georgia Dome work. “We didn’t have as much time pressure, but from a safety standpoint, it made sense to use implosion to bring down the top ring,” he says.

The Silverdome implosion was scheduled for Dec. 3—just two weeks after the Georgia Dome blast. However, the Sunday implosion did not fully detonate, resulting in a second attempt the following day that did succeed in bringing down the Silverdome’s upper bowl of seats.

For Adamo Group, the implosions marked just one step in each project’s lengthy journey from start to finish.

SIZABLE HARVEST

Before planned explosions brought attention to both stadium projects, Adamo Group crews were busy inside both the Georgia Dome and the Silverdome harvesting objects and materials for recycling.

Some preimplosion site work involved preparing the stadiums for the big blasts. The implosions were performed directly by specialty subcontractors, says Adamo, and Adamo Group worked in cooperation with them to do any precutting or drilling of spaces to host explosives.

“We basically did prep work based on their blast plans; we gutted everything out for them,” Adamo says.

In Atlanta, Adamo Group “did a lot of prep work before the blast—selective demo—to gut the building and get materials of value,” Adamo says. Georgia Dome's main tenant, the Atlanta Falcons, maintained ownership of anything with “trademark restrictions,” Adamo says, and the owner also claimed some electro-mechanical equipment. “The remaining things become property of the contractor. All salvage was our responsibility, including both ferrous and nonferrous metals,” Adamo says.

The Georgia Dome’s structural steel, reinforcing bar and steel-beamed roof will all make its way to scrap yards in Atlanta, Adamo says. Much of the estimated 170,000 tons of concrete will be recycled and used on-site for the planned 13-acre urban park and a 1,000-room hotel.

The tight timeline means sizable crews have been working around the clock at the job site. “We have crews there six days a week, around the clock, with about 20 workers on each shift,” Adamo says. He says there are about 16 excavators and two wheel loaders on the site, running attachments that include pulverizers, breakers, shears, and crusher jaws with shears to cut rebar and magnets. Torch cutters also are on-site to sever large steel beams.

The Silverdome will yield a similar amount of concrete—Adamo estimates 150,000 tons—but less structural steel, since it was built with an inflatable tarp roof. The Silverdome’s vacancy also contributed to its lower metals content.

“The building was vacant and open to the elements for several years, so vandals and scrappers had been in and out of that building more times than I can count,” Adamo says. He says there are videos posted online “of people doing stunt bicycle riding” in the vacant structure. Subsequently, “nonferrous materials are long gone, taken by looters.”

Adamo Group did have access to a portion of the remaining seating, some of which it was able to sell to interested buyers.

Photo by Adamo

Without a replacement building schedule in place in Pontiac, Adamo Group is clearing the site at a slower pace compared to Atlanta. “We operate there with a crew of about six people, five days per week. We are using similar types of equipment as in Georgia: excavators with shears and magnets, and a loader. All aggregate materials are staying on-site, and our end scope is to grade it in dirt and cap it off to have it ready for redevelopment.”

Adamo Group’s activities in Atlanta are scheduled to wrap up by mid-February 2018, Adamo says. In Michigan, the smaller crew will work into the third quarter of 2018, with the parties involved eyeing a completion date in September or October.

BUSY BUT BITTERSWEET

The culmination of the two stadium implosions within two weeks of each other capped a hectic 2017 for Adamo and the Adamo Group. Despite the hectic schedule, Adamo says he still had time to reflect on the journey the company has taken and on the memory of his father, who founded the company, and his older brother John, who led the firm for many years.

“The Silverdome was the last project my brother and I really worked on together,” Adamo says, noting that research on the bidding for that project was already well underway when his brother passed away in December 2015.

Following the death of then-CEO John T. Adamo Jr., who had taken over the reins of the company from John Sr. (who founded it in 1964), Richard was in charge of the family business, which was enjoying growth and forward momentum established by his older brother.

He says the good memories and hard work of his father and older brother were not lost in the swirl of activities in late 2017. “It was bittersweet because of that. At the Georgia Dome site that Sunday morning, I was extremely emotional because of the magnitude and what was going on. I pushed the button, and I said, ‘Here’s for you, dad and John.’”

Recounting some of the major events that took place at both stadiums, Adamo reflects, “Now, a little demo company out of Detroit is part of this history. In one year, we were involved in two major demolition implosions that caught the attention of the U.S. public.”

The reach of the projects even extended beyond the U.S., Adamo says, who notes that he received messages of congratulations from business contacts he has throughout Europe after the implosions.

As Adamo Group heads into 2018, work at both sites will keep the firm busy, but so too will new projects (such as the dismantling of a large hospital campus in Michigan) and the ongoing effort to bid on the next set of jobs to fill the schedule for the growing family business.

The future may well include more high-profile stadium or arena projects. “We’re actively pursuing other venues; we’ve got our feelers out,” Adamo says. “We’re hoping that with the success of these two projects, other ones come down the line.”

Overall, Adamo says he is “optimistic that the future will be bright for us. I think 2018 is going to be active. This economy is going like gangbusters, and right here in downtown Detroit, there is a lot of demolition and construction activity. It should be a respectable year.”

The author is an editor with the Recycling Today Media Group and can be contacted at btaylor@gie.net.