Many park rides, shows, and attractions have a limited life span, often opening with great fanfare, then fading in popularity or reaching the end of their serviceable life. Especially in a corporate park setting, as things grow older, they become expendable.
|For the 1983 season, Great Adventure added the Great Lake Grandstand as a venue for a new Water Ski Spectacular show. This was a part of the continuation of growth for the park under Six Flags management, with new rides and shows being added each season as attendance was growing in the early 1980's. While the water ski shows were popular early on, the crowds seemed to lose interest over time, with a brief renaissance in the Time Warner era of the 1990's when the Great Lake hosted the Lethal Weapon Stunt Show. After that show ended the facility was used less frequently, generally only for fireworks shows.
|In preparation for 2016's The Joker coaster which would replace the Aqua Spectacle stadium, it was decided to demolish the aging Great Lake Grandstand at the same time. Both facilities were in need of maintenance that would cost more than the value of the buildings. Removing these stadiums would create a large space for even more future development.
|The Grandstand was a fairly simple venue, with a steel structure supporting the rows of aluminum bleachers and a cantilevered steel canopy. Beneath the bleachers were former food and retail spaces which had been used for many things over the years, as well as a large storage facility and dressing room area from the old show productions.
|Before demolition started, the area beneath the Grandstand was cleaned out of anything valuable that could be saved or reused. The Show Operations Department used to store all kinds of equipment under there, and the former food stand was being used for the strolling food vendors for many years as well.
|Once the construction fences went up around the Grandstand in mid-July, the utilities were disconnected. The demolition equipment came in on August 24, 2015 and began dismantling the structure, beginning with the wooden facades along the stadiums back pathway. Removing the facade exposed the steel structure beneath it.
|Modern demolition often focuses on sorting materials as the process happens. Removing the wooden sections first meant the wood could get shipped off to a landfill or recycling center separate from the more valuable and more easily recycled steel and metal components.
|Because the areas under the Grandstand were "habitable" spaces used for making food, dressing rooms, storage, season pass processing, etc., they had duct work for air conditioning as well as wiring for power and other functions.
|The stadium's former store had been used for a time as the Six Flags TV broadcast center, so wiring was run to a network of TV screens throughout the park. Many of those materials pulled out of the structure had value as scrap for recycling.
|With almost all the old wooden facade removed, the simplicity of the steel I-beam structure really showed. Removal of the interior spaces was the most time consuming part of the demolition, taking time to remove all of the walls that had been added over the years.
|Not much was recognizable in the piles of material pulled out of the Grandstand aside from the sign that used to hang over the center tunnel entrance to the facility. While it looked like the sign might actually be spared, it could be later spotted amongst the crushed rubble.
|After just four days of demolition, on August 28, the stadium's huge canopy had been removed and the structure was reduced down to just one story high. Before the equipment could make its way into the remaining portion of the building some of the debris had to be hauled away so the equipment could reach what still stood.
|At this point with much of the stadium stripped down, the inner-most hallways and passages caught their first rays of sunlight. Deep inside, a memory wall of sorts could be seen where performers from years past had made their mark by signing their names and making brief notes on the sheetrock.
|From aboard the Skyway, aerial views afforded guests the opportunity to examine the demolition progress from above. While the Great Lake still appeared tranquil, the Great Lake Grandstand looked like it was bombed as only tangled rubble remained.
|The piles of debris from demolition were carted off site bit by bit with each type of material being packed up and brought to the proper recycling facilities. With each pile removed, the vacant plot of land seemed to grow bigger and bigger.
|Finally after all the materials were removed from the site, the land was graded along the lakefront trying to bring it back to more or less its original profile. Without the trees that had originally lined the Woodland Gardens area of the park, the area looked very different.
|In the years since the Great Lake Grandstand was removed, the area has been fenced off and grass planted. The site has been used as a viewing area for fireworks shows around the 4th of July as well as other special events. For the first time since the Great Lake Grandstand was built in 1983, over three decades later the stadium's namesake Great Lake was once again clearly visible from the park's shore.
|Original Spotlight: August 27, 2021. GAH Reference#: SHOW-1983-001