McCollum Hall’s implosion creates impressive spectacle

KU's McCollum Hall comes crashing down during a planned demolition on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015.

Crowds gathered around the Kansas University campus to watch the end of McCollum Hall Wednesday morning.

And the implosion of KU’s largest building did not disappoint.

As planned, following a series of police siren blasts, the booms started at 9 a.m. In less than 20 seconds, the 10-story, three-wing, 220,000-square foot building buckled in the middle and crumbled in on itself under a massive plume of dust.

When the dust cleared about a minute later, all that was left of McCollum was a pile of twisted concrete and rubble.

“In demolition parlance, it was a beautiful shot,” said project manager Steve Tripp of Midland Wrecking Inc. “The building broke up really nicely.”

Tripp said the building came down just as the blasting contractor had planned. He said no one was injured, and there was no apparent damage to anything but McCollum.

The crowd of onlookers included a mix of McCollum alumni, families with small children out of school, amateur photographers and people who just wanted to see a really big building implode.

Shaymarie Genosky of Lawrence was one of the McCollum alumni watching from West Campus.

She said she recalled walking into McCollum — where she lived during her freshman year at KU, 2005-06 — for the first time and thinking the dated dorm “was pretty gross.” But she said she made a lot of good memories and a lot of good friends there.

Genosky said she was a little surprised at her reaction to seeing the building’s demise.

“When it went down, it was kind of sad,” she said. “It was kind of sentimental.”

Her boyfriend, Andy White, of Lawrence, who was a frequent visitor at the hall, said he was impressed by the demolition.

“I was not disappointed,” he said. “That was a pretty amazing spectacle.”

Other alumni watching the implosion included Rick Werp, of Madison, Ala., and his daughter Kristin Werp, of Kansas City, Mo., who both lived in McCollum 45 years apart.

Rick Werp said he was in a three-man room for his freshman and sophomore years, starting in 1966.

When Kristin Werp moved in for her freshman year in 2011 — “I chose McCollum because it was the cheapest,” she said — she said her dad marveled at how much the same it looked. Same linoleum, same furniture, same doors.

As soon as she heard about the implosion, she called her dad to make sure he’d be coming to Kansas for Thanksgiving and that he’d come watch the McCollum demolition.

“I don’t really feel sad,” Kristin Werp said. “It’s definitely kind of a weird feeling, but I’ve never seen something this big implode.”

Tripp said crews removed plastic covering protecting nearby Ellsworth Hall Wednesday morning and were heading home for the Thanksgiving holiday.

He said workers would start hauling away wreckage early next week.

Once crushing, haul-off and backfilling is complete — anticipated to take until February — KU will turn the space into a parking lot for Daisy Hill residents.

This fall, two new residence halls opened to replace McCollum, the conjoined Oswald and Self halls housing 350 students apiece. KU’s Central District redevelopment plan calls for constructing another new residence hall near Oliver Hall and an apartment style residence hall near 19th Street, downhill from McCollum, within the next couple of years.

KU Student Housing director Diana Robertson said McCollum’s demolition, a months-long process including pre-demolition and site cleanup, cost about $880,000. That cost was included in the $48.6 million price tag for Oswald and Self halls.

Opened in 1965 at 1800 Engel Road, McCollum initially housed more than 900 students. Robertson said that roughly 10 years ago KU started limiting the hall to about 750 students.

At that rate, an estimated 43,000-plus students called McCollum home over the course of its 50-year run.