Ocoee’s Colony Plaza Hotel is razed as hundreds of people gather along the
corner of West Colonial Drive and McGuire Road to watch.
At 7:11 a.m. on Saturday, May 9, a Southwest Orlando landmark came to a spectacular end as hundreds of people gathered along the corner of West Colonial Drive and Maguire Road in Ocoee to witness the implosion of the Colony Plaza Hotel.
The hotel boasted a grand beginning, opening in 1968 as a Ramada Inn and vacation resort. Shortly thereafter, on April 30, 1969, Disney executives, who had rented the entire hotel, held an elaborate press event to introduce Walt Disney World Resort and officially announce the 1971 opening of the park.
Throughout the years, the pink hotel changed ownership, eventually becoming a time-share complex. Butch Stanley, fire marshal division chief of the Ocoee Fire Department, said the hotel was never condemned, but was cited in 2001 as being unsafe and uninhabitable. A faulty sprinkler system had activated on the fourth floor, leaving water damage, electrical issues and fire alarm problems.
The Colony Plaza quickly fell into disrepair and became the victim of vandals.
In January of this year, the city of Ocoee decided to move forward with the hotel’s removal. Given 75 days and a final budget of more than $700,000, Central Environmental Services Inc. began work on the demolition in March. According to CES President and Chief Executive Richard Lorenz, the first 39 days of the project involved removing asbestos and gutting the building, leaving just a concrete skeleton of the two seven-story hotel towers.
At that point, the CES crew began drilling 1-foot-deep holes in the columns on the first and second floors for placement of half sticks of dynamite. Two days before the implosion, blast experts from Dykon Explosive Demolition Corp. in Tulsa, Okla., along with bomb squad members who wanted to learn from the experience, began loading dynamite into the columns, wiring the site and setting blasting caps.
About 340 full sticks of dynamite were used to bring down the buildings.
In the end, the hotel fell in less than 30 seconds, sending up a cloud of dust from the crushed concrete as the crowd cheered.
“It came down perfectly,” Lorenz said. “It was a perfect day.”
Many families, including Joe, Rebekah, and Libby Fana of Prairie Lake Reserve, gathered with friends to experience the final moments of the hotel.
“I’m pleased to see this day,” Joe said. “The hotel had become an eyesore and source of illicit activity in the community. The redevelopment of the property will be a welcomed addition to the west Orange County area.”
Ocoee Assistant City Manager Jamie Croteau said that funds to pay for the demolition came from the Community Redevelopment Agency. Liens will be placed on the property to cover the costs of the demolition when it is eventually purchased by a developer.