ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - The dilapidated building that once housed the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino came crumbling to the ground on Wednesday morning as onlookers came from near and far to watch the implosion of an Atlantic City staple.
The property, now owned by billionaire Carl Icahn, was brought down around 9 a.m. Crowds of people gathered on the beach to get a front row seat of the implosion, others congregated at Bader Field over 2 miles away from the blast site.
To complete the implosion, demolition crews positioned explosives at strategic points along the building’s support structures designed to knock its legs out from under it, bringing the building down on itself, with the debris falling in a slightly north-northeast direction, Fire Chief Scott Evans said.
Once a swanky hangout for celebrity icons and the uber-wealthy, Trump Plaza closed in 2014 and the building was later purchased by Icahn. Multiple unsuccessful attempts were made to bring down the building as it fell into a state of disrepair. Wednesday's implosion was originally scheduled for January, but scrapped after Icahn issued a cease-and-desist letter to Atlantic City.
The January demolition event became a fundraiser to benefit the Boy's & Girls Club of Atlantic City. Mayor Marty Small hoped the fundraiser would raise more than $1 million. Icahn told The Associated Press his philanthropic arm donated $175,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City to replace money that would have been raised by a charity auction of the right to press the button to demolish the former Trump Plaza casino.
Several instances had been reported citing chunks of building falling onto the tourist city below. Last summer, city officials said a net would be constructed around the building to catch falling debris as the city mulled demolition plans.
The decision to push the demolition to February came after Bodnar’s Auction canceled its solicitation of bids, citing a letter from Icahn’s company instructing it not to proceed with the auction because it considered the public "spectacle" to be a safety risk, with the possibility of flying debris injuring the person pressing the demolition button, or others gathered nearby.
Three weeks ago, Mayor Small announced that demolition would be moved to Feb. 17 a 9 a.m. In preparation for the blast, crews were out early Wednesday morning spraying water on nearby rubble to keep dust from lifting into the air during the implosion. Surrounding roadways were also cordoned off by Atlantic City police.
"Today we turn a new chapter and look forward to rebuilding," Mayor Small told FOX 29's Steve Keeley.
While Atlantic City does not own the land, Small said he plans to work with Icahn to develop a new entertainment venue. Small is partial to a family entertainment site to "complement the steel pier and the $100M water park that's coming."
Trump Plaza was the last of four Atlantic City casinos to close in 2014, victims of an oversaturated casino market both in the New Jersey city and in the larger northeast. There were 12 casinos at the start of 2014; there now are nine.
By the time it closed, Trump Plaza was the poorest-performing casino in Atlantic City, taking in as much money from gamblers in 8 1/2 months as the market-leading Borgata did every two weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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