T he Orange Bowl, home to Miami sports legends for over seven decades is about to be demolished. It’s a monster job. Over 70,000 seats, over 9,000 square meters of turf and over 5,000 tons of steel. To make way for a new stadium, it’s all got to go. But they must recycle 95 percent of the structure, so it can’t be imploded.
This 70-year-old football stadium has been home to the University of Miami Hurricanes and five Super Bowls. Now it’s old and too expensive to repair. So the city of Miami has decided to lay this legendary stadium to rest, to clear the land for a new state-of-the-art baseball park. In just four months, a demolition team needs to remove 23,000 square meters of structure. Not only is the timetable tight, the city of Miami mandates that everything must be salvaged or recycled. The city chose Decommissioning and Environmental Management Company — or DEMCO — for the contract.
DEMCO’s Ed Hartman takes command of the site and the task ahead of him. Under Ed’s watch, this super-sized demolition will unfold in three stages: Stage one: the gut-out — remove or recycle nearly 10,000 square meters of turf, over 1,000kg of lightbulbs and over 70,000 seats. They also must clear the stadium of asbestos — a potentially deadly killer if left uncontained. Stage two: the strip down — take down eight nine-tonne hurricane-grade stadium light towers while mega-machines rip, strip and prep the stadium for the third and final stage: demolition. They’ll cut, pull and pummel the remaining 12-story skeleton, moving around the bowl until it’s reduced to rubble. When they’re done, there’ll be nothing left.
Each material must be salvaged and sorted, including over 1,000kg of glass light bulbs. But the bulbs are delicate, so it’s not a job for mallets and muscle. Each bulb needs to come out by hand, one by one. And then there’s the 70,000 famous orange seats.
To move it all out, the demo team needs to bring heavy machinery onto the field. But they can’t risk destroying the expensive Bermuda turf with the weight of their mega machines, so the sod must come out first and fast. But this isn’t grass you’d find in any backyard. It’s Super Bowl turf, so the city has some special plans for it. They’ll transplant the turf to a local park 3km away.
Meanwhile, they take on an even bigger challenge. They still must remove the asbestos panels throughout the stadium before they can start major demolition. The workers remove the asbestos-laden concrete, panel by panel. But removing the asbestos creates another danger — a patchwork of holes. The team works at over 27m in the air, and any misstep at these heights could injure or kill a worker, so a safety harness is a must. The entire project depends on this team’s success. Until they clear the stadium of asbestos, DEMCO can’t begin the structural demolition, and they have only months to get the site ready for the new baseball stadium.