A history of implosions in Tampa Bay

Published Feb. 28, 2012

Progress Energy is ready to set off charges to bring the smoke stacks at its Weedon Island plant down on Tuesday at 10 a.m. But it won't be the first time the bay area has witnessed the spectacular controlled explosions that are designed to bring the structures down in a collapsed heap without sending debris flying. Here are some other implosions that awed spectators:

Soreno Hotel (1992)

This 1920s-era hotel in downtown St. Petersburg had been long vacant and was scheduled for demolition anyway when Hollywood came calling. Producers for the movie Lethal Weapon III would help with the demolition and film the explosion for use in the Mel Gibson-Danny Glover franchise. In late January 1992, an estimated crowd of 5,000 was on hand to watch the explosion. Some acted as extras in the scene (the stars were not there); others protested the demise of the 68-year-old landmark. The explosion lasted 11 seconds as the hotel crumbled into a neat pile of debris moments after Lethal Weapon III's explosives sent red fireballs blasting through the roof. Unfortunately for the city, the scene never found its way into the actual movie. Instead, the footage appeared in the closing credits. To add insult to injury, the city's name was misspelled in the credits.

Spyglass hotel (July 30, 2008)

Las Vegas illusionist Criss Angel decided to use the demolition of the hotel as the setting for an elaborate stunt in which he would escape just as the building imploded. The stunt, televised live internationally for A&E, began with Angel shackled to the sixth floor balcony of the nine-story Spyglass Resort. It ended more than four minutes later with Angel emerging, looking dazed, from the rubble that had been the hotel. The destruction of a Clearwater Beach eyesore turned into a major marketing and financial boon for the city as thousands of people flooded the beach during an off-peak season and a national television crew used the beach's picturesque view as a backdrop.

Here's a video:

Old boiler plant (2006)

The boiler house of the old A.W. Higgins power plant succumbed to explosives in October 2006 as it was imploded. Construction of the plant began in the early 1950s, and it had long been a visual fixture on the north bank of Old Tampa Bay in Oldsmar. Thousands of people flocked to Philippe Park and Safety Harbor Marina and Pier to watch the building implode.

Houlihan's Stadium (1999)

Most remember it fondly as the Big Sombrero, the site of many a futile Bucs game in the old Creamsicle orange uniforms. Once Raymond James Stadium was built next door, this one had to go, and deconstruction began in January 1999. In the end, it was the luxury suites, shown at left in the aerial photo, that succumbed to the explosive charges.

Old John's Pass Bridge (2008)

In November 2008, engineers imploded the foundation of the John's Pass Bridge that joined Treasure Island and Madeira Beach to make way for construction of a new span.

Old Clearwater Pass Bridge (1996)

The 33-year-old span was blown up by about 500 to 1,000 pounds of explosives. The span had become obsolete after a new bridge was opened. Before the actual blast, demolition crews set off firecracker-type explosives so fish would be scared away from the actual demolition.

All photos from Times files