Six miles of detonator cords, 4,800 pounds of dynamite, and another mile of wire connections — this is the massive force it took to turn Atlanta’s Georgia Dome into a smoking pile of rubble on Monday morning. The grand coliseum hosted the 1996 Olympics and has been home to the Atlanta Falcons for years, but when it was replaced by the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, city officials decided it was time for it to go. The problem was that downtown Atlanta isn’t exactly an open field, and plenty of other buildings could be damaged if the city had taken a wrecking ball to the Georgia Dome.
That’s where implosion comes in.
Instead of bashing away at the Georgia Dome like a piñata, city authorities used a cleaner, more elegant approach. In an implosion, explosive devices take out a building’s structural supports, and the weight of the building does the rest. If all goes according to plan, the force of the building falling in on itself helps to further demolish any large pieces into rubble. This means the only thing left to do is clean up the pieces.
The distance shots of the dome’s implosion may make it look like the dome was intact right up until it crumbled, but in fact, demolition experts had been preparing the structure for months. They’d disassembled the interior of the bowl, leaving it looking more like the ruins of the Roman Coliseum than a modern stadium. All the ramps, offices, vendor booths, interior walls, and seats had been gutted in advance, leaving nothing behind but the massive structure and its architectural supports. The rubble from this disassembly was piled in the middle of the bowl.
“Gravity plays a major role,” Rick Cuppetilli, the senior project manager, told Georgia Public Broadcasting in the days leading up to the implosion. “Our last final steps we’re doing right now, we just take out some key ingredients and use the weight of the upper concrete ring and of the columns to fold everything in.”
To put it simply, the structural components of a building, whether a house or a stadium, hold it up in the face of gravity. When the weight-bearing components are suddenly removed, the imbalance causes gravity to find equilibrium. In the case of the Georgia Dome, that equilibrium was found when the entire structure collapsed inward as the 4,800 pounds of strategically placed dynamite detonated simultaneously.
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