Work crews at the Memorial Coliseum in Corpus Christi, Texas, will soon be starting work on demolishing the old structure, including the removal and remediation of old asbestos insulation from pipes and walls inside the fifty-five-year-old building. Preliminary inspections found widespread use of the dangerous material, as was common when the structure was built in 1954, before the hazards of asbestos exposure were widely known.
The city was in negotiations with National Swim Center Corporation to redevelop and repurpose the old building into a multi-use facility combining retail shops, residential space and a swimming complex. The site had previous served as host to several events, including basketball and hockey games, rock concerts and other touring acts, for fifty years before the completion of American Bank Center in 2004. The structure was also home for a memorial honoring soldiers from the area who had died in the line of duty.
Since 2004, the site has been largely abandoned as city officials have sought out developers to remodel and upgrade the building. Local preservation groups had sought to keep the building intact due to its status as a war memorial. Preservation Texas placed a message on their website calling for members to urge Corpus Christi city council members to preserve the site. One local resident organized a petition drive to call for a citywide referendum on restoring the coliseum, but did not gather enough signatures.
Pending a vote by the city council to approve the plan proposed by National Swim Center, the city will begin making plans for the demolition this month and start taking bids on the project in February. The demolition is slated to start by the end of March and city officials expect it to be finished by early June. These estimates also include the time and expense involved in removing the asbestos from the aging structure. In order for a contracting firm to win the bid for the project, they must meet state and federal worker safety requirements when removing and disposing of the toxic fibers.
Recent negotiations between National Swim Center and the city have shown that the firm requires another five to seven million dollars to cover the costs of the planned renovations. The city had previously agreed to cover two million dollars of the costs in order to get the process started, but has not authorized the use of any additional funds. Also, due to some restrictions on the city’s charter, they may not pull those funds from other sources without bringing the issue before the voters.
Council members set a deadline of 12 January for their decision. If they did not approve National Swim Center’s proposal, they would go ahead with plans for demolition, including removing all of the asbestos from the affected site. City Council member Brent Chesney, who is also a minority owner of the local minor league hockey team, said that National Swim Center should recalculate their estimates on materials and labor to reflect price changes brought about by last year’s economic downturn. He estimated that repairs to the building should cost no more than eight million, including the asbestos remediation work.
Source: The Corpus Christie Caller