Officials set date for Coliseum implosion

After months of delays and half-serious speculation that the Coliseum would never be torn down, city officials said Tuesday that they will formally announce a date for its implosion today.

Although the Coliseum’s implosion date is yet to be finalized, a City Hall miscommunication led local media outlets to report that the Jan. 20, 2007, date had been set, city officials said. While the city has not formally agreed with Stamford Wrecking Co. on a date, the implosion is likely to occur on Jan. 20, barring any last minute problems, Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances Clark said.

Officials announced on Tuesday that a date will be set for the Coliseum’s implosion, which will make room for Gateway Community College and the Long Wharf Theater.
Jeffrey White
Officials announced on Tuesday that a date will be set for the Coliseum’s implosion, which will make room for Gateway Community College and the Long Wharf Theater.

“Everything is done, but the officials have to sign,” she said.

The Coliseum’s demolition suffered a year’s delay after United Illuminating voiced concerns in 2005 that electrical equipment directly underneath the Coliseum site would be damaged during the implosion. UI requested that the city undertake technical impact studies for the site, and the electricity company — New Haven’s second largest for-profit employer — gave its approval over the summer.

“We expressed our concerns in May 2005 about protecting our electric equipment under the Coliseum,” UI Spokesman Al Carbone said. “We gave [our] approval of that plan in August, [and] we will have crews on site when they do implode just in case there are problems.”

The site where the Coliseum currently stands forms the centerpiece of the Gateway Project, a $230 million plan to bring to the downtown Gateway Community College, which is currently located on the outskirts of the city, in addition to the Long Wharf Theater and other assorted retail and residential units.

Gateway spokeswoman Evelyn Gard said the imminent destruction of the Coliseum will be a sign to the New Haven community that the city is moving ahead with its downtown redevelopment project. While the Gateway Project was delayed a year because of new plans to include a 600-space parking lot, Gard said the community college will soon unveil a plan of the site’s future structure.

“I think it is good for the community to see some evidence of the redevelopment project,” she said. “I would say that within the next six weeks to eight weeks, Gateway will have something to show the public.”

The main Gateway campus is expected to move to its new location in the fall of 2011, Gard said.

Clark, whose ward includes the area surrounding the Coliseum, said the structure’s implosion next month comes as a relief to the businesses and community members in her ward who have had to suffer an eyesore and noise from workers removing parts of the edifice to make the demolition safer. While the implosion of the Coliseum is only one step of the Gateway Project and more disturbances lie ahead for the ward, Clark said, her constituents are happy to see the imposing building come down.

“At this point, they just want the thing to come down,” she said. “They have suffered a year of people with jackhammers trying to take it down piece by piece. It is no way to live — it is like having your kitchen renovated.”

Local business owners in the Ninth Square area echoed Clark’s comments and said they are pleased that the Coliseum is finally coming down. They expect it will make the area more accessible to foot and vehicle traffic and improve the local economy.

Prasad Chirnomula, the owner of Thali Restaurant — an Indian restaurant in the Ninth Square district — said that while restaurants in the Ninth Square District have been very successful in recent years, the Coliseum’s implosion will make the area more attractive and remove an eyesore and a source of traffic inconveniences.

“It looks like a dead coffin sitting there with a pile of mud,” he said. “When I first heard the Coliseum was coming down, my first question was: Is it January 20, 2007 or 2008?”

The New Haven Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum was constructed in the 1950s and played host to sports games, rock concerts and circuses until it was closed in 2002.

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