Originally created 08/03/97

Farewell to Fulton



ATLANTA - Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the former home of the Atlanta Braves, was turned into a pile of rubble Saturday.

Some 1,600 pounds of explosives were set off at 8:04 a.m., and it took only 27 seconds to turn the approximately 35,000 cubic yards of concrete and 10,000 tons of structural steel into a mangled mess amidst a cloud of dust that hovered above the site for several minutes before disappearing in the solid blue sky.

"It was excellent, real good. Everything went off perfectly, just as we expected," said Steve Pettigrew, president of Franklin, Tenn.-based Demolition Dynamics Inc.

A crowd estimated at 30,000 by Atlanta police, including mayor Bill Campbell and Atlanta Braves executives John Schuerholz and Stan Kasten, watched from several vantage-points outside an 800-foot buffer zone.

The cleanup, set to begin Monday, should take about 45 days.

Workers will then come in and pave the 14-acres into a parking lot for the Braves' new home, Turner Field. The new stadium sits just across the street from the old stadium, where Hank Aaron's famous 715th home run in 1974 broke Babe Ruth's record.

"There's a lot of history wrapped up in that stadium," Campbell said. "It really sort of heralded our entry into major-league sports, the first southern city to have a pro-sports franchise."

The stadium was home to the baseball Braves, who moved from Milwaukee in 1966 to Atlanta, and the NFL Falcons, an expansion team that same season.

The Falcons moved out of the stadium and into the Georgia Dome in 1992. The Braves, once the laughingstock of the National League, became the dominant team in the majors beginning in 1991 when they won the NL title after finishing last in 1990. The Braves have been to the World Series four times since 1991, winning the title in 1995 by beating the Cleveland Indians in six games.

The Braves moved to Turner Field, formerly Atlanta's Olympic Stadium, at the beginning of this baseball season.

"I have a lot of fond memories about Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium," said Schuerholz, the general manager credited with turning the Braves around when he climbed aboard prior to the 1991 season. "I just think it's an occasion I wanted to experience more for the memories than for anything else."

The stadium was the second Atlanta landmark to go out with a bang within seven days. The Omni, home of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, was leveled last weekend to make way for a new basketball and hockey arena.

It was a day of mixed emotions for Clyde "Doc" Partin, a professor of physical education at Atlanta's Emory University, who has worked part time at the stadium since it was built.

"I don't know whether I should break down and cry or what," said Partin, whose jobs with the Braves included running the scoreboard and matrix board as well as two years as official scorer.

"I just figured I was here at the start so I should be here at the end to pay my respects," he said.

To prepare for the demolition, the inside of the stadium was piled with rubble, wires and pipes. The seats where thousands of fans sat for 31 years were auctioned off earlier.

Crews began installing the explosives on the 240 columns that supported the stadium's circular decks last week and finished on Friday.

A monument marking the spot where Aaron's historic 715th home run landed will be erected once the parking lot is completed.