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Stacks coming down

Sunday implosion likely to lure big crowd to Murray

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MURRAY — It may lack the allure of an imploding hotel in Vegas or the backdrop of a historic cemetery, but the felling of Murray's smokestacks will be a true spectator event.

It doesn't matter what the EPA says, what the police urge or how much the mayor pleads — if the stacks are going to fall at 9 a.m. Sunday, as approved Friday by a federal judge, there's going to be a crowd to watch it.

Officials want you to stay home.

They want you to sit back in your favorite chair and watch it live on television.

But they also know what they want isn't likely to be what they get.

"I couldn't possibly stand to be home and have that going on and not be there," said Murray resident Sherry Madsen.

Madsen, a school board member who has lived in Murray for 25 years, said she's going, she's taking her husband and her children are going.

There's even some grandchildren tagging along.

"To say there's been some interest would be putting it mildly. I've talked to a lot of neighbors and friends who want to be there, who don't want to wait and see it on the news. They want to see it firsthand," said Madsen, who also works for the Newspapers in Education department of the Deseret News.

Through chitchat she's picked up at a local supermarket, Madsen said it's evident there is passionate spectator appeal attached to the smokestacks' demise.

"I know some people who are going to go down early; I know some who are going down at 6 a.m. to get a good front row seat. I know friends who have businesses along State Street where people are setting up camp."

The big question on everyone's mind, Madsen lamented, is the logistics of the whole thing.

"Most everybody I've spoken with is worried about how they are going to get anywhere, finding a good parking spot, and they're wondering how far they are going to have to hike."

No one can predict how many people will turn out Sunday.

In Las Vegas, where the 11-story Hacienda Hotel was imploded in 1996, a crowd of nearly half a million showed up.

Of course, the Nevada hotspot turned the implosion into an attraction for its New Year's Eve celebration, complete with a four-minute display of fireworks prior to the blast. There were also pyrotechnics during the night-time event to illuminate the destruction, followed by still more fireworks afterward.

Then, the city hosted a giant block party to cap it all off.

Not Murray.

Not even a single person applied for a concession license to sell doughnuts and orange juice.

A city zoning officer sternly said they would have been denied anyway.

The Murray Police Department, which will have a full force of folks guarding the perimeter, declined to offer an iota of advice on where to go, because they don't want you there.

"Our standing on it is the best viewing area will be from your television at home," police detective Rob Hall said.

Mayor Daniel Snarr says ditto.

"People need to stay home." (His emphasis.) "That would really help us out."

Several television stations will broadcast live coverage of the event.

KUED Channel 7 and Fox 13 news will begin coverage at 8:30 a.m. Sunday. KTVX Channel 4 and KUTV Channel 2 will begin their broadcasts at 8:45 a.m. KSL Channel 5 will wait to have coverage of the event on its 5:30 p.m. broadcast.

Viewers can see the demolition from different angles, said KUTV Assignment Manager Dave Murray. Aerial shots will be shown from news helicopters as well.

Fox 13 will have several reporters on the scene, including one at a furniture store near the stacks at about 5300 South.

"We're going to be live, live, live," said Fox 13 news director Renai Bodley.

Inside the studio, segments of Jerry Andersch's documentary "Giants on the Skyline" will be shown. The documentary highlights the history of the Murray smelters, relying on old photos and memories of former employees and their families.

Still, some spectators are bound to flock to Murray Sunday morning.

"That is one of our bigger nightmares," conceded EPA's Eleanor Dwight. "What to do with all these people."

Earlier this year when the National Gettysburg Battlefield Tower was toppled, the biggest problem was controlling the spectators. Trespassers trampled over historic battlefield graves to get a closer look at the twisted steel, and some intoxicated protesters had the pleasure of meeting their police department.

Of course, officials turned that collapse into something of an event as well. Dignitaries made speeches, a cannon symbolically blasted in the direction of the tower and then it toppled. You could even buy a T-shirt.

There's been no word on that here.

In essence, if you're going to go, you'd better not be late. With the stacks scheduled to topple at 9 a.m., it will all be over in less than 15 seconds.

Eric Kelly, the chief blaster, is the guy who will make the stacks fall like great brick trees. He and his crew are the ones wearing the red shirts with sayings like "Have a Dynamite Day."

He spelled out the sequence:

Someone will say or shout "fire."

Six seconds will pass.

Pop.

Bang.

Six more seconds will pass.

The north stack will fall.

Three seconds later, the south stack will go.

Just like that, the stacks are expected to tip into two berm-lined "trenches."

Both are between 10 and 15 feet deep, 100 feet wide and are big enough to handle two stacks, not just one.

Water guns will be positioned around both trenches. A separate water jet will be between the stacks and 5300 South to capture any dust that may come off from behind. The water will start to spray five minutes before the demolition will begin. It will continue to run 10 minutes after the pair of towers have landed in their graves.

The EPA figures it will be shooting 80,000 gallons of water into the air to control the dust.

As a precaution, a whole brigade of Murray's city fleet will be there — from firetrucks to street sweepers to the power department.

"We're not really doing anything unless a problem occurs," said Doug Hill, Murray's director of development services.

Hill is one of many city employees fielding smokestack calls from a highly interested public.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," he said. "People have a lot of interest in not only seeing the demolition, but there are a large group of people who have a sentimental attachment to the chimneys and are interested in seeing the fate of them."

Scott Hansen is among those with a sentimental attachment, going so far as to describe himself as a chimney hugger.

He doesn't know if he'll be there Sunday.

"I have such mixed feelings, I don't know if I can stand to watch it," Hansen said. "I've been looking at these things forever, since I was little. I used to live on my bike, and everywhere I'd go, I'd see them."

By a little after 9 a.m. Sunday, if all goes at planned, Hansen knows he'll never see them again.

The familiar landmarks — ugly to some and beautiful to others — will be no more. And it won't matter if one person turns out or 70,000.


E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

Staff writer Donna Kemp contributed to this report.