The clock is ticking

The clock is ticking
Vermillion restaurant-owner Brian Steele doesn't have too many distinct memories of the Zip Tower in Sioux Falls.

But there's one thing he'll never forget.

"I remember when you're at the top you can see forever," Steele said. "There wasn't any of that stuff downtown back then. I don't think the Holiday Inn was even built back then."

"The main thing that sticks out in my mind is you could see the cathedral tower pretty easily, and you were actually above it when you were at the top of the tower."

The tower has been abandoned for years, and should come to a quick end Saturday at 12:55 p.m.

For the past month, work crews have been preparing the tower for its demolition. It will take less than 100 pounds of dynamite to bring the structure to the groundSaturday.

The tower will be torn down to make room for a proposed five story office and entertainment complex near the

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Sioux River.

Several Sioux Falls businesses have been selling raffle tickets for $1 each to determine who gets to throw the switch that sets off the dynamite and brings down the building.

The money raised from the raffle will go to the South Dakota chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Steele said even though the tower is the tallest building in Sioux Falls, it isn't prominent on the city's skyline.

"You don't really notice it because it's down in a low part of Sioux Falls in the downtown area. So it sits lower than a lot of buildings. You don't really notice it until you get to the top.

"I was at the top of it a few times," said Steele, who grew up in Sioux Falls. "That was when I was little � I was probably in first or second grade when I dilly-dallyed around there. All of my brothers worked there when they were in high school and college, and they would take me up there."

Steele isn't certain of all of the business arrangements that eventually led to the construction of the 210-foot-high tower. At least two of the partners involved in Zip Feeds were Paul Batcheller and Brian's father, Eldon.

Eldon Steele died in 1971.

Steele said if his recollections are correct, Paul Batcheller's son, Tom, eventually purchased his father's share of the business.

"From there I don't know where it went," Steele said. "I think a bigger company may have bought it."

According to the Web site www.blowupzip.com, The Zip Feed Mill opened for business in 1956 and was operated by Ridley, Inc. At the time, the mill was the most technologically advanced mill in the world.

An advanced electronic control system allowed one operator to move feed ingredients from trucks to one of 52 bins in the building. The feed was mixed in four-ton batches and bagged using the control system.

The advanced system also allowed the workers to mix different feeds. This was something most mills weren't able to do at the time.

In the late 1990s, the Zip Feed Mill was used to attract Peregrine falcons. The endangered birds fed on the abundant pigeons that called the Zip Feed Mill home. When the feed mill closed down three years ago, the Peregrine falcons stopped frequenting the building.

In 2003 children playing in the building started it on fire. The fire destroyed most of the adjacent annex building, but the feed mill tower was unharmed.

Steele has no plans to travel to Sioux Falls to watch the tower's destruction, but will likely view it on television. He admits it's difficult to feel sentimental about a building he scarcely remembers.

"If I was 15 years older, I'd be able to tell you more," he said. "I don't remember hardly anything about the inside of the building except for the elevators.

"It's a sad thing, I guess. It's just one of the things I remember when I was little and it was always a part of our family," Steele said.

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