With a mighty set of booms that echoed throughout downtown, Mayor Tom Leppert and his pastor Robert Jeffress made room for the opulent new face of First Baptist Dallas this morning, reducing four buildings to a heap of rubble at the foot of the old 120-year-old sanctuary.
As a crowd of construction workers and media looked on, the two were joined by church chairman Mark Lovvorn around an oversized red button on the neighboring Hartford Building's rooftop deck. "We're doing this for one reason," Jeffress said, "to magnify the glory of our lord Jesus Christ." With that, the three made a show of plunging down the button in unison, cueing a series of explosions around the church complex below. In under a minute, 150 pounds of dynamite dispatched with First Baptist's Christian Education, Ruth Ray Hunt, Burt and Veal buildings, as clouds of dust flew up around the ruins.
Leppert told Unfair Park before the blast that this morning's job -- run by Controlled Demolition and Dallas Demolition II -- was the second implosion he's presided over, and his first as mayor. Back in his Turner Construction days, he helped bring down Seattle's Kingdome a decade ago.
The old First Baptist complex kept a low profile among the glass-walled high-rises downtown, but the $115 million makeover to follow will help Jeffress announce the church's presence loudly, with a cross-topped water tower in a plaza of fountains, a new four-story education building and a 3,000-seat church filled with high-def TV's and almost a mile of pews.
Jump for a few more shots from the rooftop along with, of course, video of the blast.
, Jeffress and Leppert oblige the cameras as they hit the button.