Former President Donald Trump has been gone from Atlantic City for a number of years, but the shell of one of his former casinos lived on — until Wednesday morning, when a much-ballyhooed implosion of shuttered Trump Plaza took place (a mere seven minutes after the scheduled 9 a.m. start).
And with that, a major reminder of Trump’s legacy in a city that helped him gain his fame beginning in the 1980s is gone.
Trump didn’t build the first Atlantic City casino — that would be Resorts, which opened in 1978 — but his Boardwalk property (which opened as “Harrah’s at Trump Plaza” before the name quickly was shortened) helped raise the status of the city to a new level.
With 614 hotel rooms and a 60,000-square-foot casino, Trump Plaza was all the rage in the early years for entertainers and entertainment to catch the eye of a curious national media.
Major boxing and professional wrestling events were a staple at Boardwalk Hall adjacent to Trump Plaza, and some of the era’s top performers such as Barbra Streisand, The Rolling Stones, and Aretha Franklin also made the Atlantic City stop a key part of their tours.
Auction idea imploded, too
Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small in December had touted the idea of an auction, with the highest bidder to get the opportunity to “push the button” and take the decaying building down.
But billionaire property owner Carl Icahn put a stop to that, while offering a $175,000 check to the Atlantic City Boys & Girls Club as a significant consolation prize.
Another $16,000 was later raised for “front-row seats” for the implosion.
“From the beginning, we thought the auction and any other related spectacle presented a safety risk, and we were always clear we did not want to participate in any way,” an Icahn spokesperson said in a statement in explaining the kibosh on the auction.
Hundreds more braved the chill to watch from the beach.
The beginning of the end
The glitz and glamour of Trump Plaza took a major blow when Trump opened the far more elaborate Trump Taj Mahal just up the Boardwalk in 1990.
That “billion-dollar boondoggle” began drowning in debt the very month that it opened, and Trump Plaza’s status was significantly impacted as well.
Trump removed his financial stake from his Atlantic City casinos in 2009, while accepting an annual fee for the right of the properties to continue to use his brand name.
Trump Plaza and Trump Taj Mahal became the fourth and fifth AC casinos to close, in 2014 and 2016, respectively. The latter was soon purchased and rebranded in 2018 as Hard Rock Atlantic City.