ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – It was neither the biggest nor the best implosion ever.
A auction for the right to detonate dynamite to begin the implosion of the collapsed Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, NJ.
The front row seats to see the Wednesday morning show were sold cheaply. Spectators in cars hoping to see the former president’s symbolic final casino empire in the seaside town were billed $ 10 and parked in land recently used as a food distribution site during the time of the pandemic.
The implosion of what was once Atlantic City’s premier gambling destination came less than a month after its best-known former owner Donald J. Trump left the White House after losing reelection and became the first president in history to be dismissed twice. It was acquitted Saturday of incitement to the murderous riot of January 6 at the Capitol.
The tower fell shortly after 9 a.m. amid a huge cloud of dust and an eruption of cheers.
“It’s the end of a not-so-great era,” said Jennifer Owen, 50, who offered $ 575 for a front row seat at a VIP breakfast at a beachfront lodge. with a direct view of the implosion.
Ms Owen, who lived in Atlantic City for decades before moving two years ago to Rochester, New York, said she was not a fan of Mr Trump and was eager to say goodbye at the skyscraper that once bore his name.
“It’s symbolic for sure,” she said. “Him. Everything ends.”
Roy M. Foster, chairman of the Atlantic and Cape May County Central Labor Council, said the event was bittersweet.
“It’s a good day. It’s a bad day,” he said. “A lot of us worked on this building.”
Trump Plaza was the first of three casinos Mr. Trump owned before his Atlantic City gambling businesses crumbled 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.
For detractors, including Democratic Mayor Marty Small, Wednesday’s demolition was the living embodiment of a long-awaited end.
“It’s not about President Trump because, quite frankly, the people here in the big city of Atlantic City knew how the presidency was going to play out on the national stage because we are one of the cities that knew him best ”. Mr. Small said after the implosion.
While campaigning for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, Mr. Trump frequently bragged about how he had outsmarted Wall Street lenders and valued his name in Atlantic City.
“The money I got out of it was amazing,” he once told an interviewer.
In fact, he used little of his own money, a New York Times investigation found, and he transferred his personal debts to the casinos, leaving the burden of his failures on investors and others who had staked his success.
“His tenure here ended horribly,” Mr. Small said in an interview last month.
Opened for the first time in 1984, Trump plaza became Atlantic City’s 10th casino and in its early days offered the promise of great players and the allure of big-name events, including heavy price fights where ringside seats brought in $ 1,500 and attracted celebrities. Its casinos have also generated tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue.
But after a series of bankruptcy filings, Mr. Trump severed ties with Trump Plaza in 2009, though his name briefly continued to adorn the building. It closed permanently in 2014 and billionaire investor Carl C. Icahn bought 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 ten years ago and is now the Golden Nugget.
Michael Raimer, who worked as a cook at Trump Plaza for 20 years, was nostalgic as he waited to see the building collapse.
“It’s a place where many families have come together,” said Mr. Raimer, 60, who lives near Galloway, New Jersey. “It was a facility that really took care of a lot of people in Atlantic City. It gave us a lot of jobs.
The Trump Plaza has been one of the city’s most visible horrors for years, occupying prime land near the seaside promenade. Pieces of debris and falling metal contributed to its designation as a “Imminent danger”, setting the stage for Wednesday’s demolition.
Mr. Icahn’s plans for the property are unclear. Mr Small said he hoped Mr Icahn could develop the property as a family destination hub to complement a new indoor water park which is planned for the walk.
“This is the best property in town,” said Mr. Small. “You don’t often have this opportunity.”
The city has nine remaining casinos, all of which have been closed for months by the coronavirus-related state lockdown, pushing 27,000 employees without work overnight. Most casinos reopened on July 4 weekends, but the occupancy limits for gaming rooms, as well as inside restaurants and bars, remain capped at 35 percent, crimp the nightlife in a city that thrives there.
“We need to diversify our offers. We can no longer depend on casino games, ”said Mr. Small.
“We will always be a casino city – we love the jobs and the opportunities they offer,” he added. “But it’s time to take the turn to differentiate ourselves from all the other cities, near or far, that now have casinos.”
The Trump Plaza Tower had been largely destroyed, with much of the concrete removed. Demolition crews were at the site most of last week, placing around 3,000 pieces of dynamite which used the weight of the reinforced concrete structure to bring its 34 floors gracefully to the ground.
The implosion lasted only a few seconds. Since the building had no basement or cavity to absorb the debris, the remaining rubble pile was between 70 and 80 feet in height. The goal is to clear the debris by summer, city officials said.
As the clock ticked several minutes past 9 a.m., groups of impatient spectators waited, cellphones in the air.
“Looks like the Plaza is also being acquitted,” joked George Tibbitt, chairman of the Atlantic City council. Soon came a series of loud booms that preceded the main event. After the building fell, a huge cloud of dust filled the sky, chasing the people watching near the ocean from the beach.
Mr Small said the brief delay was related to a drone spotted near Caesars Casino being evacuated from a no-fly zone surrounding the demolition site.
The demolition was carried out by a Maryland company, Controlled Demolition Inc., which imploded 28 buildings in Las Vegas and other structures in Atlantic City.
For some, the show was an opportunity to generate business in a city that is still struggling to get back on its feet in the midst of a pandemic.
The mayor, in an attempt to raise funds for the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City, had attempted to auction off the right to press a button to implode the building, but Mr. Icahn, who had backed Mr. Trump as president scuttled this plan, citing Safety concerns. Instead, Mr. Icahn donated the value of the highest bid, $ 175,000, to the club.
An alternative auction for 10 hotel packages, including VIP access, generated around $ 6,000 in auction, and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino also donated $ 10,000 to the club, which extended its hours and services. to provide a safe place for children to go to school. virtually.
Caesars was offering a $ 299 package for a room with a view and stay on Tuesday night, with champagne and late check out.
Edward Zarnock, of Edison, NJ, said he couldn’t recall how much he bid to be among the auction winners with prime seating in a One Atlantic ballroom , an event space that juts out onto the ocean and offers a breathtaking view of the implosion. .
“I always wanted to see a building collapse,” he said. “I’ve never seen one in person.”
Now he has.