CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The Raider Dome came crashing down in the predawn hours Monday as part of demolition to make way for Cleveland High School's new gymnasium.
"We only learned of Raider Dome's demolition after it happened," said Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools. "The contractor wanted to keep the event a secret as a way to maintain public safety."
The school's 50-year-old landmark was closed in December after receiving an unfavorable structural analysis and was scheduled to be demolished over the summer.
Originally, the contractor thought the dome could be knocked down in a piecemeal fashion, but that plan changed after gathering more data on the dome's structural integrity, said Hal Taylor, director of maintenance and transportation for the city school system.
Ringstaff said explosives were not used in taking down the dome roof. Instead, backhoes clawed holes on the structure's south side, causing the roof to pitch toward Raider Drive.
There's still plenty of demolition work to do, considering that the lower concrete levels still remain, he said.
Although work began in May on the demolition phase of the project, the building could not be simply knocked down at first, school officials said.
Most of the school's infrastructural network, including gas and water lines, passed under the dome and had to be relocated, Taylor said.
Demolition and debris removal are scheduled to be completed by July 25, and construction of the high school's new gymnasium is scheduled to begin Sept. 6, Ringstaff said.
In a recent meeting, a committee was appointed by the city school board to review potential contractors for the construction phase of the project. Its members include Ringstaff, Taylor, Assistant City Manager Melinda Carroll and city school board members Peggy Pesterfield and Dawn Robinson.
The intent of the preliminary process is to narrow the list of potential bidding contractors by reviewing their experience on similar projects, Ringstaff said.
The cost for the entire project, including demolition, was capped at $11 million in April by the city school board in response to a request by the Cleveland City Council for schools to contribute $1 million to the replacement of the Raider Dome.
To cut $1 million from the new gymnasium proposal could mean reducing the number of bleacher seats from 2,700 to 2,400, said Brian Templeton, the consulting architect on the project.
The old gymnasium was often at capacity with only 1,500 seats, said Autumn O'Bryan, principal of Cleveland High School.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.