They Build Things and They Tear Them Down, too


Excavators are salt of the Earth-type people. Before things can be built starting at eye level and above, excavators are called in for site grading or to install water and sewer pipes beneath the ground. Sometimes demolition is needed. Dangerous but rewarding work, indeed. Big kids in a sandbox.

Demolition progress at the former St. Croix Meadows Greyhound Racing Park in Hudson, Wisconsin has been tracked since April. Just like eating an elephant one bite at a time, there is no easy way to grind up acres of asphalt parking or demolish a multi-level grandstand, both of which faced years of neglect, going back to its closure in 2001.

The grandstands have mostly come down, and observers will find piles of material, sorted by useful value – – metal here, steel there, and concrete over there. Reportedly, there is an hour of cell phone video involving a tug-of-war between the last of the upright, twisted steel beams and big-time excavation equipment. Back-and-forth, the upright beams refused to come down, followed by more equipment and another round of tug-of-war. Physics may have favored the stubborn beams. One hour later, the excavators broke for lunch. Perhaps it was halftime.

Fast forward to July 3rd and the state’s top guy from Madison arrived at the old greyhound track for an announcement. The beams were still upright. As a backdrop to the sound system, a huge America flag was flying, secured between earthmoving equipment. The excavating crew took their spot between the flag and the speakers. Fittingly, several photos captured them in their orange vests and blue jeans. Following his announcement, the top guy shook their hands and mingled, perhaps his way of acknowledging their important contributions to the project.

The remaining beams have come down. Years from now the demolition crew may remember the effort it took to overcome both physics and structural integrity. In its place, the development group envisions corporate sites, hospitality, office, commercial, hospitality, and a right-sized stadium that will be home to a Northwoods baseball team in a year or two. It would be ironic if some of the recycled beams made its way back to the site. Maybe but maybe not.

Here’s to the gritty part of progress. Here’s to the excavators. They build things and they tear them down, too.