Friday, December 18, 2009

Asbestos Found in Corpus Christi Memorial Coliseum

Civil engineers with the city of Corpus Christi, Texas, will formulate ideas on how best to take down the city's aging Memorial Coliseum. Meanwhile, attorneys for the city are discussing and agreement with the National Swim Center Corp. that could potentially keep the facility open. Following up on both alternatives at the same time could strain the city's budget, as the city council can only follow through with one of those options.
In order to proceed with the demolition efforts, city officials will employ an asbestos specialist to scrutinize the facility and compose a study describing where most of the asbestos is situated and estimate the expenses involved in carrying out cleanup and removal techniques that can both satisfy federal and state environmental regulations and maintain worker safety during the process.
City Manager Angel Escobar estimates that the report should cost around $5,000. He also said that the city's own engineers will examine options concerning how the building can best be torn down. The city engineers' report should cost the city about $50,000. Although the city has done some preliminary reports on the site's design and how it was originally constructed, none of those studies included inspections for asbestos levels.
If the city council reaches and agreement with National Swim Center, then the demolition plans will be abandoned. In both 2003 and 2007, the city paid for architects and structural engineering firms to examine the site and come up with some concept designs that would either allow for reuse of the facility or to determine the costs involved in demolishing the site.
Last week, Corpus Christi Mayor Joe Adame put forth a motion to the city council to knock down the old building and put up new housing and retail development on the site. The council voted down the mayor's motion, but did vote in favor of examining both the demolition and swim center proposals. The council will then examine the reports from both sides of the issue, and then vote on which option to exercise on January 12.
Since 1954, Memorial Coliseum has been the primary events center for the city. The site has hosted basketball and hockey games, rock concerts and other touring acts. In 2004, the American Bank Center opened with newer amenities and expanded seating capacity. During the last five years, Memorial Coliseum has sat empty, but several firms have approached city leaders with plans for reuse and redevelopment of the historic arena. National Swim Center is the sixth firm to discuss such options with the city council, and the third this year alone.
Regardless of whether the city chooses to refurbish Memorial Coliseum or if they plan to demolish the building, the issue of the asbestos in the fifty-five-year-old structure remains. According to US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates, workers involved in the removal and remediation of asbestos must wear special protective clothing and filtered breathing masks to insure that they do not come in contact with the dangerous fibers. The city must undoubtedly take the additional costs of such safety measures into account when they eventually reach a decision.

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