A hotel and casino in Atlantic City once owned by former US president Donald Trump has been reduced to a smoking pile of rubble in front of a thrilled audience.
The former Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino was once a staple on the Atlantic City Boardwalk but had deteriorated so much in recent years that chunks of it had started to peel off and crashing to the ground.
It was closed to the public in 2014, and had fallen into disrepair.
On Wednesday morning (local time), the former jewel in Mr Trump’s casino empire was brought to the ground in just 20 seconds with the aid of 3000 sticks of dynamite.
The demolition cleared the way for a prime development opportunity on the middle of the Boardwalk, where the Plaza used to market itself as “Atlantic City’s centrepiece”.
Opened in 1984, when Mr Trump was a humble real estate developer, Trump Plaza was once the most successful casino in Atlantic City. It was the place to be when mega-events such as a Mike Tyson boxing bout or a Rolling Stones concert were held next door in Boardwalk Hall.
“The way we put Trump Plaza and the city of Atlantic City on the map for the whole world was really incredible,” said Bernie Dillon, the events manager for the casino from 1984-1991.
“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 said.
“It was a special time. I’m sorry to see it go.”
Ron Gatewood, who worked at Trump Plaza from 1986 until it closed in 2014, delivered food and drinks to stars such as Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross and Barry White in their hotel rooms.
“They were very down-to-earth people,” Mr Gatewood said.
“They never made you feel less-than. They tipped very well. Well, some did, anyway.”
Prior to Wednesday’s blast, demolition crews lined explosives along the building’s support structures designed to knock its legs out from under it, local fire chief Scott Evans said.
“It will crumble like a deck of cards,” he said.
Indeed it did. Shortly after 9am, the tower came down in a huge cloud of dust and to cheers from the thousands watching.
“It’s an end of a not-so-great era,” said Jennifer Owen, 50, who paid $US575 ($A740) to watch the implosion from a front-row seat at a VIP breakfast in an oceanfront pavilion.
Others paid as little as $10 to watch from an empty building block used most recently as a base for distributing food aid during the pandemic.
Though Mr Trump built it, the former casino building had been owned by a different billionaire, Carl Icahn, since 2016.
Things began to sour for Trump Plaza when Donald Trump opened the nearby Trump Taj Mahal in 1990. Its crushing debt loads led the company to pour resources – and cash – into the shiny new hotel and casino.
Trump Plaza was the last of four Atlantic City casinos to close in 2014, victims of an oversaturated casino market in the New Jersey city and across north-eastern US.
By the time it closed, Trump Plaza was the poorest-performing casino in Atlantic City.