|By Karen Nelson, The Sun Herald, Biloxi,
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 21, 2006 - BILOXI -- The skyline of Biloxi changed early Sunday with the demolition of the 12-story Grand Casino Island View Hotel.
Mayor A.J. Holloway pushed the button on a series of a dozen explosions set by a professional demolition company out of Houston. The ground rippled, and the building folded in on itself at around 6:45 a.m. The crowd cheered.
The event attracted people not only to the VIP stands set up for those who received an invitation, but also along the beach where people brought lawn chairs and cameras. There were spectators watching by boat.
"That was cool, very cool," said Victor Mavar Jr., who watched from the stands. "It was sharp."
The enormous cloud of dust that the building created as it fell neatly in place, dissipated before it even reached the audience.
Though there were a few tears in the crowd, the mayor saw only the good that would come of the demolition.
"It's not the end of something; it's a beginning," he said. The $1 billion construction that is planned for the site by its new owner, Harrah's, shows faith that Biloxi is a great casino resort, he said.
It is projected to take at least a couple of years to recreate a full resort casino on the site, but Harrah's plans to have a casino fully operating this year in a building that was part of the complex on the north side of U.S. 90.
"The big story today is not about what's coming down, but what's going up here," said Vincent Creel, a spokesman for the city. "It's a tangible sign of recovery."
A lady standing next to him, looking at the people who had gathered said, "And this is the most activity I've seen on the beach since the storm."
The building had been damaged by Katrina, but not to the point it couldn't be salvaged, a spokeswoman for Harrah's explained earlier in the week. The company simply wanted to start new, with a clean foot print for the next phase of construction, she said.
It took Cherry Demolition 1½ weeks to drill the building and about two days to load the 400 pounds of explosives into the holes. The company, which has been on the Coast since February preparing the building, works mostly in the South and mid-West.
Workers emptied the building and the company was able to donate the contents, said Hayley Cherry, spokeswoman. The Kids Quest equipment went to the YMCA, the University of Southern Mississippi received the aquariums and the bathroom stalls went to a local church, among other things. The cement and metal will be recycled, she said.
Why was the event so early?
Leonard Cherry explained.
"The higher the sun gets up, the stronger the wind," he said. "We like to shoot as early as we can."
When it was over, the street sweepers moved in to clear any dirt and dust that reached U.S. 90 and get traffic moving again.
Copyright (c) 2006, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.
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