Trump Era in Atlantic City Will End With 3,000 Sticks of Dynamite


Feb. 17, 2021

Trump Plaza was the first of three casinos Donald J. Trump owned in Atlantic City before they eventually went bankrupt.Credit...


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — It will not be the biggest or the best implosion ever.

An auction for the rights to detonate the dynamite to begin the implosion of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., fizzled.

Front-row seats to view Wednesday morning’s planned spectacle were sold on the cheap. Onlookers in cars will be charged $10 and herded into a lot most recently used as a pandemic-era food distribution site.

Still, the demolition will mark the symbolic finale of the former president’s casino empire in the seaside resort city.

The implosion of what was once the premier gaming destination in Atlantic City comes less than a month after its best known former owner, Donald J. Trump, left the White House after losing re-election and became the first president in history to be impeached twice. He was acquitted on Saturday of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Trump Plaza was the first of three casinos he owned before his gambling businesses in Atlantic City cratered and went bankrupt for good, leaving a trail of unpaid contractors and suppliers — and a bad taste for the Trump brand in this struggling city of 38,000.

To detractors, including the Democratic mayor of Atlantic City, Marty Small, Wednesday’s planned demolition was the vivid embodiment of a long-awaited end.

As he campaigned for the Republican nomination for president, Mr. Trump frequently boasted about how he outwitted Wall Street lenders and rode the value of his name to riches in Atlantic City.

“The money I took out of there was incredible,” he once told an interviewer.

In fact, he used little of his own money, a New York Times investigation found, and he shifted personal debts to the casinos, leaving the burden of his failures on investors and others who had gambled on his success.

“His tenure here ended horribly,” Mr. Small said in an interview last month.

First opened in 1984, Trump Plaza became Atlantic City’s 10th casino and in its early days offered the promise of high rollers and the allure of marquee events, including heavyweight prize fights where ringside seats fetched $1,500 and attracted celebrities.

Mr. Trump did employ thousands of people and his casinos generated tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue.

But after a series of bankruptcy filings, Mr. Trump cut ties with the casino in 2009, even though his name briefly continued to adorn the building. Trump Plaza closed for good in 2014 and the billionaire investor Carl C. Icahn acquired it out of bankruptcy in 2016.

The ostentatious Trump Taj Mahal closed in 2016 and is now the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The Trump Marina Hotel Casino closed a decade ago and is now the Golden Nugget.

The Trump Plaza has stood for years as one of the city’s most visible eyesores, occupying prime land on the boardwalk. Chunks of falling debris and metal contributed to its designation as an “imminent hazard,” setting the stage for Wednesday’s demolition.

Mr. Small has said that he hoped Mr. Icahn might develop the property as a family-friendly destination hub to complement a new indoor water park that is planned for the boardwalk.

“Everyone is looking forward to the implosion and we ultimately are looking forward to the cleanup and the rebuild,” Mr. Small said. The implosion is expected to be featured Wednesday on the city’s webcam.

The city now has nine casinos, all of which were closed for months by the state’s coronavirus-related lockdown, thrusting 27,000 employees out of work overnight. Most casinos reopened Fourth of July weekend, but occupancy limits on the gambling floors, as well as inside restaurants and bars, remain capped at 35 percent, crimping nightlife in a city that thrives on it.

“We can’t depend on casino gaming anymore,” Mr. Small said. “We need to bring new industry here.”

But first comes the implosion, which is expected to take place around 9 a.m., barring heavy fog.

The building has been largely gutted, and much of the concrete has been removed. Demolition crews were at the site most of last week placing an estimated 3,000 pieces of dynamite that, once detonated, will use the reinforced-concrete structure’s own weight to bring its 34 stories cascading to the ground, a demolition engineer said.

It is expected to last only seconds. Because the building has no basement, and no cavity to absorb the debris, the pile of remaining rubble could be 70 to 80 feet high.

The demolition is being done by a Maryland company, Controlled Demolition Inc., which has imploded 28 buildings in Las Vegas and several other structures in Atlantic City. The company will be filming from several angles so that viewers can witness the event live on its YouTube channel.

To some, the spectacle was an opportunity to generate business in a city still struggling to regain its footing in the midst of the pandemic.

The mayor, in a bid to raise $175,000 for the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City, had attempted to auction off the right to push a button to implode the building, but Mr. Icahn, who had supported Mr. Trump as president, scuttled that plan, citing safety concerns.

An alternative auction for 10 hotel packages, including V.I.P. viewing access, generated about $6,000 in bids and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino donated $10,000 to the club, which has extended its hours to provide a safe place for children to attend school virtually.

Caesars, a casino near the Trump Plaza tower, was offering a $299 stay-and-view room package Tuesday night, complete with champagne and late checkout.

The boardwalk, windy and cold, was largely empty on Tuesday night, and there were few obvious signs that one of the city’s tallest towers would be felled in the morning.

A 37-year-old woman from New Jersey, who identified herself only as Sascha L., was on vacation for a few days in Atlantic City with her mother.

They were staying at Caesars, but had no idea about the implosion before they arrived. They nonetheless planned to try to watch.

“For some people, it’s like good riddance,” she said. “It’s like wiping all the memories, erasing everything with his name.”


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published this page in News and Politics 2021-02-17 03:19:44 -0800