Trump Plaza Implosion Signals End of Atlantic City Era
The former Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino tower came down Wednesday morning, ridding the city of a derelict Boardwalk complex that was once part of former President Donald Trump's casino empire.
It took only seconds to fell the 34-story tower after a dozen dynamite blasts were triggered at 9:07 a.m., kicking up dust clouds carried by winds out and over the Atlantic Ocean.
Mayor Marty Small called it “an historic moment," "exciting” and “truly a great day in Atlantic City," promising to pursue redevelopment of the premium property with as much zeal as he and other city officials had in bringing the long-delayed demolition to fruition.
Crowds had gathered on the Boardwalk outside an exclusion zone, along nearby city streets or from their cars parked at Bader Field at the end of the Atlantic City Expressway.
The implosion of the gutted tower, for many, symbolized the end of Trump’s time in this gambling resort town that saw it grow to four casino hotels and eventually fall to numerous financial setbacks, four bankruptcies and property sales.
Small has said Trump contributed to the early days of the city's casino industry, creating jobs while making a lot of money.
"But he was selfish, took advantage of some people, hurt some people..... and stiffed some," he added.
At a news conference after the dust had settled Wednesday, Small said the implosion was "not about politics, Donald Trump or President Trump" but about an opportunity that doesn't come along often to redevelop one of the best properties in town.
Crowds had numbered into the hundreds on the beach and Boardwalk to watch the implosion and a drive-up viewing site was established at nearby Bader Field.
Vineland residents Bill Cavallo and Dennis Campanella were among the first people at Bader Field Wednesday morning, arriving shortly before 7 a.m. to secure spots along the water.
“Just a part of Atlantic City history, something cool to see,” said Cavallo, 50, who witnessed The Sands Atlantic City implosion in 2007 as well. “We got here early, have a good view and figure we’ll hit the casinos for a little bit after.”
For Campanella, Wednesday’s implosion marked a first for him.
“Never saw anything like this before,” Campanella, 51, said from the passenger seat of Cavallo’s Jeep Wrangler. “It’s Atlantic City. You come here so many times over the years and you get used to seeing these different buildings. I remember when Trump came through and built up Atlantic City.”
Kathy Miley and Julie Osborn, of Villas, Cape May County both pulled out their phones to record the moment as a small chorus of “blow it up” chants rang out in the background.
“It was quick, very quick; it was like, boom, then it was done,” Miley, 57, said.
Mike Meyer, 45, of Long Island, continued to gaze across the water from Bader Field long after the Plaza had fallen.
“Myself, I used to go to the Trump Plaza a lot,” he said. “I started coming in ’97. I have some emotional ties, me and my ex-wife and stuff, we came down here a lot. So, a lot of good memories. It’s bittersweet, you know? It’s kind of the end of an era for me.”
Meyer said Atlantic City plays a big part in his family’s history.
“We started staying in Trump Plaza forever even though my family always stayed down at Showboat,” Meyer said. “We’re a family of gamblers, for sure – from my grandparents, to my aunts, to my mom and what not.
“So, to see Trump Plaza go is tough for me,” he said. “I used to come down four, five, six times a year.”
About two-dozen auction winners sat in “front row” seats a Playland Pier overlooking the beach and Boardwalk.
Louis Woloszyn 59, of Philadelphia was raised in Berlin Borough. He came dressed as "Implosion Man," wearing a dynamite costume.
"I came for the spectacle," he said. explaining afterward that this implosion was "typical among the 12 he has witnessed around the country wearing his orange outfit complete with faux dynamite sticks and a working clock on his chest.
"The most spectacular was the Bethlehem Steel Tower in Pennsylvania and the view was even clearer than this one," he said. Atlantic City's packed Boardwalk skyline obstructs the full view of many buildings, including the Plaza tower.
Stephanie Koch, CEO of the nonprofit boys and girls club said donations connected with the event topped $191,000 — $175,000 from Carl Icahn after he shut down an earlier charity auction plan to award someone the right to push the detonation button.
The Trump Plaza, the only casino Trump built from the ground up, operated for 30 years before closing in 2014. Icahn Enterprises, a major real estate developer, bought both the Trump Taj Mahal, which closed in 2016, Trump Plaza and the Trump Entertainment Resorts company.
Icahn never reopened nor sold Trump Plaza; the Taj was sold in 2018 and now carries the Hard Rock name.
Trump World's Fair Casino, formerly Playboy and then Atlantis, closed in 1999 and was torn down the following year after only a few years of operation on the Boardwalk.
Trump Marina, located off the Boardwalk and first called Trump Castle, is now the Golden Nugget.
At the height of casino-resort development here, the city had more than a dozen casinos. It now has nine and the mayor and other officials are eyeing family and non-gaming attractions to grow the city's appeal.
Icahn Enterprises has not announced a redevelopment or sale plan for the Plaza property between Columbia and Mississippi avenues, but Small said the city expects to meet with Icahn representatives in the future.
“It was exciting! W ehave been waiting for this to come down for years. It’s a real eyesore,” said Elizabeth McGlinn, owner and operator of the glass-enclosed One Atlantic events venue at the far end of the former Caesar’s pier.
Her venue hosted the implosion viewing event, co-sponsored by the city and the Atlantic and Cape May Counties Central Labor Council.
Arts dealer Jarrett McCusker of New Hope, Pennsylvania, entered the highest bid of $1,125 for two seats at the viewing party and breakfast with city officials.
"We are not fans of the former president and thought it might be fun to watch one of his buildings come down and we also like the idea supporting the Boys and Girls Club."
Carol Comegno loves telling stories about South Jersey history and our military veterans. Her book, “The Battleship USS New Jersey: From Birth to Berth” is the definitive history of the battleship. If you have a story to share, call her at 856-486-2473 or email email@example.com.