Trump Plaza casino demolition - a history of the Atlantic City hotel that become an eyesore

New Jersey’s former gambling centre sees end to ‘glass, brass and class’ relic of former president’s gambling empire

Gino Spocchia
Wednesday 17 February 2021 15:09
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Trump's Atlantic City casino demolished

The Trump Plaza casino in Atlantic City was demolished on Wednesday morning, bringing an end to the building’s dominance over the city’s skyline.

It was also the symbolic end to Donald Trump’s physical presence in the New Jersey city, where he owned three casino and entertainment complexes in its heyday.

For years a playground of the rich and famous, the Atlantic City boardwalk was the place where Mr Trump’s casino business empire began — and crumbled when a wave of bankruptcies struck in the 1990s.

The Trump Plaza, which opened in 1984, was the first of three entertainment complexes owned and operated by the former president in Atlantic City, and was described as being the finest Trump-owned casino.

Another casino, the Trump Taj Mahal, would prove to be tough competition for the Trump Plaza, and accelerated the decline of the gambling and entertainment market on the boardwalk over the next decade.

A 1984 article in the local Star-Ledger described the Trump Plaza as being “glass, brass, and class” - a description that allegedly delighted the architect, David Jacobson, NJ.com reported.

The building — mostly paired back to its concrete shell before demolition - was only the tenth of its kind built in Atlantic City, and originally stood at 39 stories, with an estimated cost of $210 million (£151 million).

The Trump Plaza boasted 60,000 square feet of casino, with more than 600 hotel rooms above the gambling and floor below. The building also became host to celebrities, concerts and heavyweight prize fights — as well as the WrestleMania IV and WrestleMania V events of 1988 and 1989.

“The way we put Trump Plaza and the city of Atlantic City on the map for the whole world was really incredible,” Bernie Dillon, the events manager for the casino from 1984 to 1991, told the Associated Press.

The main entrance to Trump Plaza

“Everyone from Hulk Hogan to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it was the whole gamut of personalities,” said the former events manager, who spoke with the AP before Wednesday’s demolition. “You had Madonna and Sean Penn walking in, Barbra Streisand and Don Johnson, Muhammad Ali would be there, Oprah sitting with Donald ringside.”

The casino even had a cameo in the film “Ocean’s Eleven,” when George Clooney and Brad Pitt recruited actor Bernie Mac’s character to help with a Las Vegas casino heist, they plucked him from Trump Plaza, where he was a dealer.

But over time, the Plaza became the lowest performing casino in the city and was over $500 million (£360 million) in debt by the early 1990s, when it entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Mr Trump eventually dropped the casino in 2009, although his name still adorned the building until it’s closure in 2014, at which point revenues had fallen by almost 50 per cent on 2006, according to the Washington Post. The casino was afterwards brought by the billionaire investor Carl C. Icahn in 2016.

Atlantic City has waited seven years to see the building and its stripped-back concrete tower demolished - clearing the way for the redevelopment of the boardwalk, and the New Jersey city.

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