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Soon, the crumbling will begin in earnest

Houlihan's fate has been set in stone.
In a few months, the old stadium will be gone forever.

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 18, 1998


TAMPA -- It is a giant part of Tampa sports history. But over the next several months it will become simply ... history.

Houlihan's Stadium, a k a Tampa Stadium, a k a the Big Sombrero, hosted a Mutiny game Sunday, followed by a concert and a "lights out" ceremony to pull the plug on the 32-year-old bay area landmark.

Now what?

The Tampa Stadium Authority will implement the final parts of the plan to tear down the stadium.

"By contract the stadium has to come down," said Mickey Farrell, director of operations at TSA. "According to the agreement we have, part of the plans for the new stadium are to put up practice facilities where the old stadium is, so it has to go."

photo
As dismantling occurs, this sign will become no more than a bitter memory for many. [Times files, 1996: Fraser Hale]
Here are factors that will come into play:

* Wrecking ball or implosion? It appears the stadium will be taken down by wrecking ball, Farrell said. But because TSA is not close to signing a demolition contract, he would not rule out implosion. "It's going to depend on the contractor who gets the bid," he said. "We have heard some talk about movie companies being interested in an implosion scene, but there have been no official phone calls yet."

* Price. The TSA has a demolition budget of around $1.65-million, which includes the cost of taking down the stadium and the transportation of some debris to an undetermined reef site. "That's what we have in our budget, so we're hoping it's enough," Farrell said. "We'll know when the bids come in."

* Demolition bids. The TSA has sent bid packages to a few demolition companies, and more are expected to go out over the next few weeks. Ideally, TSA would like to receive all bids by October. From there, it will choose the most economical bid.

* Time frames. TSA plans to offer two proposals to the company that gets the bid. One will give the contractor a specific time in which to complete the task. The other will allow the contractor to do it at its own pace. "How long will it take? I honestly don't know," Farrell said. "But it will be months."

* Moving TSA's offices. TSA's administrative offices will be housed at Houlihan's until offices are completed at Raymond James Stadium. There is no deadline for when TSA has to be out of Houlihan's, but the goal is late November. The start of demolition will depend on when the offices at Raymond James are finished.

* Salvaging material. Houlihan's won't be torn down or imploded with everything in it. Equipment will be either moved to the new stadium or sold. Among some of the salvageable items will be the aluminum seats, miles of valuable copper wiring, the press box and luxury suite furniture, and cleaning and maintenance equipment.

TSA plans to send out a separate bid package to see what price it can get for the salvageable items. That may become part of the process with companies bidding for the demolition rights.

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