Just a small amount of dynamite will bring down 5,000 tons of concrete from University Hall’s iconic clamshell roof on Saturday.
With a push from a plunger, a series of charges drilled into the structure will explode, bringing the roof down and simultaneously moving it away from other buildings, according to Joshua Campbell, president of Renascent Inc., the company tasked with the iconic University of Virginia structure’s demise.
“We’re not trying to blow it up into a bunch of pieces; we’re just trying to fail it so that its own weight will bring it down,” Campbell said at a press conference Monday.
Work to demolish “Ralph’s House,” which is where the Virginia men’s and women’s basketball teams played until 2006, began in 2018. First, toxic materials and asbestos were removed from the building. This spring, rippers and excavators have eaten away at the insides and exterior of U-Hall.
By Monday, only the roof and load-bearing concrete pylons remained. A chain mail and fabric curtain has been hung around the pylons, which will contain the majority of dust and rubble from the explosion.
Campbell said his company, contracted to manage the demolition, considered using heavy-duty equipment to pull the building down, but structural rings in the roof made an implosion simpler.
Plus, he added, an implosion is just plain neat.
“There’s always something about a building coming down suddenly that’s just cool,” he said.
The goal is to quickly bring the structure down without damaging the nearby McCue Center or George Welsh Indoor Practice Facility or a transformer.
After the implosion, a large dust cloud will rise over the site for about 10 minutes, Campbell said; prevailing winds will determine how long it lingers.
For the rest of the year, workers will continue breaking up and separating materials. Roughly 90% of the material will be recycled, Campbell said.
Eventually, the area will become a green space until UVa builds practice fields as part of its athletics master plan.
A large swath of the area will be blocked to public access Saturday. Curious community members are strongly urged to watch the livestream on the Virginia Athletics Facebook page rather than search for a place to view the event. Drones will not be allowed in the blast zone.
The implosion is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday.