It is not so often nowadays that a building is simply demolished, particularly not one of this scale. We have the environmental impact to think about, as well as the cost of clearing the debris, yet the implosion of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City just a couple of weeks ago was greeted with open arms by cheering crowds. How is it that such a grand and prestigious building should come to such an undignified end?
The building was designed by renowned architect Martin Stern Jr. known for many of the largest buildings in Las Vegas, as well as other record-breaking builds in other parts of the United States. The Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino was one of Stern Jr’s last designs, taking place in a heyday for wealthy American businessmen. The plaza was opened in 1984 and was originally magnificent, it contained more than 600 rooms, seven different restaurants, an enormous showroom, a health club, and, of course, an even larger casino. Though the build was originally partnered with Harrah’s, Trump would buy them out just a few short months after the opening for a staggering $70 million. He had decided to go it alone, but he might not have had he been able to see the future of this expensive building.
The casino was greeted in its first few years with enthusiasm by patrons. Particularly thanks to its numerous high roller rooms, where people could play for increased wagers. These rooms were unusual at the time, particularly in such numbers, but Trump had made his mind up, that this casino would cater predominantly to the rich and famous. Many famous and infamous parties were held there, for rock stars and actors alike, but few of them were very profitable. In its first year, the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino made a profit of $144,000. Whilst to many this may seem like a healthy profit, when you take into account the enormous cost of building this monolith and buying out the partners, estimated at $210 million, it would have to run for ten lifetimes before it got close to returning on the investment. Not wanting to back down yet, Trump did what came naturally to him, he doubled down.
In a move that will not surprise any of the Anti Trump Party, the businessman had decided that it couldn’t possibly be his fault that the casino was failing, rather it must be the fault of his neighbours. Trump set about buying up all of the available surrounding buildings, including Penthouse Boardwalk Hotel and Casino, a former Holiday Inn tower, a couple of parking lots and the Atlantis Casino Hotel. Now that he owned a slice of the boardwalk he felt like his empire in Atlantic City could truly begin, but how wrong he was.
The 1990s saw a sharp downturn for the already modest profits of the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino. Some put this down to the presence of the new casino that Trump had built just a mile away drawing trade away from the casino. Some put it down to the very beginning of the online casino sector, whatever the reason, extending the casino was not the action that Trump should’ve taken, but he did it anyway. By the end of this decade, not only would the Trump Plaza have been subjected to multiple forms of restructuring and pre-packaged bankruptcy, its sister building, Trump’s World Fair would also fail. During this decade several casinos in South Africa failed too, supporters of Trump’s business acumen argue that this was a particularly difficult market at the time. Nowadays, our casino business is stronger than ever though, both in the US and in South Africa, where Casinos.co.za list numerous land-based casinos as being leaders in their field. Whether it’s a location difference, a customer difference, bad luck, or bad judgement, Trump Plaza’s story did not finish its descent here.
The turn of the millennium sparked the end of Trump’s casino business. His four casinos in Atlantic City would all close, with the plaza holding on the longest until 2014 when it held the title of the worst-performing casino in the whole of Atlantic City, taking in as much money in almost a year, as The Borgata did every fortnight. By this point, Trump had already forgotten about the series of bankruptcies and was citing The Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino as an enduring example of his business acumen.
Seven long years later, the building would finally be demolished. Beyond repair, without interest from any buyers and becoming a danger to those who walked too close to it, 3000 sticks of dynamite would send it tumbling to the ground. In an effort to reclaim some of the money it had lost, tickets were sold for $10 each to a crowd of cheering onlookers. It seemed a fitting end to a presidential campaign, which some of the opposition believe had been as successful as the casino itself.