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Former Trump Plaza Atlantic City casino demolished
17 February 2021, 18:04 | Updated: 17 February 2021, 20:36
The former Trump Plaza casino in Atlantic City has been reduced to a smoking pile of rubble.
The building where film stars, athletes and rock stars used to party and former President Donald Trump honed his instincts for bravado and hype, was imploded after falling into such disrepair that chunks of the building began peeling off and crashing to the ground.
A series of loud explosions rocked the building at around 9am, and it started to collapse almost like a wave from back to front until it went straight down in a giant cloud of dust that enveloped the beach and boardwalk.
Overall, it took less than 20 seconds for the structure to collapse.
The removal of the one-time jewel in Mr Trump's casino empire clears the way for a prime development opportunity in the middle of the Atlantic City Boardwalk, where the Plaza used to market itself as "Atlantic City's centrepiece".
Bernie Dillon, events manager for the casino from 1984 to 1991, said: "The way we put Trump Plaza and the city of Atlantic City on the map for the whole world was really incredible.
"Everyone from Hulk Hogan to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it was the whole gamut of personalities.
"One night before a Tyson fight I stopped dead in my tracks and looked about four rows in as the place was filling up, and there were two guys leaning in close and having a private conversation: Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty."
"It was like that a lot: You had Madonna and Sean Penn walking in, Barbra Streisand and Don Johnson, Muhammad Ali would be there, Oprah sitting with Donald ringside," he recalled.
"It was a special time. I'm sorry to see it go."
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, Fire Chief Scott Evans said.
Although the former president built it, the building is now owned by a different billionaire, Carl Icahn, who acquired the two remaining Trump casinos in 2016 from the last of their many bankruptcies.
Mayor Marty Small proposed using the demolition as a fundraiser for the Boys And Girls Club Of Atlantic City, and began an auction for the right to press the button that would bring the structure down.
But Mr Icahn - a donor and former special economic adviser to Mr Trump - objected on safety and liability issues, and got the auction house to halt the bids.
Mr Icahn said he would replace the 175,000 US dollars that had already been bid with his own money.
Opened in 1984, when Mr Trump was a real estate developer in his pre-politics days, Trump Plaza was for a time the most successful casino in Atlantic City.
It was the place to be when mega-events such as a Mike Tyson boxing match or a Rolling Stones concert was held next door in Boardwalk Hall.
But things began to sour for Trump Plaza when Donald Trump opened the nearby Trump Taj Mahal in 1990, with crushing debt loads that led the company to pour most of its resources, and cash, into the new hotel and casino.
The Trump Taj Mahal, one of the casinos acquired by Mr Icahn, has since reopened under new ownership as the Hard Rock.
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 northeast more widely.
By the time it closed, Trump Plaza was the poorest-performing casino in the city.