It's the last Christmas for the Frank Erwin Center
Love it or hate it, the Frank Erwin Center has been a landmark at the corner of I-35 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard since 1977. And while it’s been a year and eight months since it hosted any events, its status as a landmark is soon to end.
Once the home to Texas Longhorns' basketball, concerts and touring acts, the "Drum" is being razed for hospital facilities. But rather than blow it up in a dramatic fashion, U.T.’s construction contractor on the project, SpawGlass, is essentially taking the arena apart piece by piece.
“If you were to, you know, demolish it by blowing the whole thing up and don't do any precautionary work, you could risk damage to other buildings,” said Dan Cook, executive director of Planning, Design and Construction for UT Austin. "You could risk damage to the people."
Imploding would be a risk to workers on the site, as well as the Dell Seton Medical Center across the street.
“We've actually installed seismic readers in the ground and a couple different locations to measure any seismic activity if something were to drop to make sure that we weren't interfering with any of the sensitive equipment in the hospital,” Cook said.
The asbestos in the arena has been largely abated. The roof has been mostly removed. The signature side concrete panels will be removed one by one and hauled away on trucks.
“Those have to be treated as contaminated materials due to some of the asbestos,” Cook said.
At that point, the remaining metal beams will more closely resemble a square than a drum. The beams will be cut and hauled off to be recycled. UT anticipates most of the building materials will be reused elsewhere.
“We're estimating somewhere between 70 to 80% of the building will likely get reused,” Cook said.
Large chunks of concrete, for example, will be broken and crushed for use in other concrete projects. The beams, pipes and rebar can all be melted and reused.
“The first thing that usually comes up when you mention something about the Erwin Center demolition is somebody will tell you an anecdote or some story about some event that they saw there or some experience they had there,” Cook said.
The new structures will be part of the new University of Texas Medical Center and will include M.D. Anderson Cancer Center's expansion into Austin. Both the U.T. Medical Center and M.D. Anderson are part of the University of Texas System.
The Erwin Center is expected to be completely demolished by October. Cook says plans for the site are still in the nascent stages and won’t be finalized until the Erwin Center is gone.