At 9 a.m. on February 17, the former Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino will be wiped off the Atlantic City skyline, the city’s mayor announced on Thursday.
“It’s a great day out here in Atlantic City,” Mayor Marty Small said during a press conference. “This has been a tedious process.”
The former Trump Plaza, which has been shuttered since 2014 and is owned by billionaire investor Carl Icahn, has been in disrepair for years, with chunks of concrete falling to the street.
Mayor Small also announced that there will be an auction to sell ten seats for an implosion viewing party held at an event space close by with unobstructed views of the former President’s former casino. (The venue has 22-foot-thick glass windows and stands adjacent to the Trump Plaza.) Bodnar’s Auction, one of New Jersey’s largest auction houses, is hosting the bidding process.
“The implosion is symbolic to a start of a new beginning for the future of Atlantic City, and this will be a part of history, and we are proud to be a part of it,” said Joe Bodnar, the company’s owner.
The Hard Rock and Ocean casinos will donate five rooms each and dinner for two to the winners of the auction. The proceeds will go to the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City.
The former Trump Plaza hotel and casino, which Icahn bought out of bankruptcy in 2016, was scheduled to come down at the end of January, but the project was hit with demolition delays.
Politics may have also gotten in the way.
The implosion of President Trump’s former casino has caught the attention of people across the world and has become a symbol of the chaotic last few weeks of his presidency, characterized by lies of a stolen election, a second impeachment and a riot at the Capitol.
Back in December, Bodnar’s Auction was taking bids for the right to press the detonator button to blow up the shuttered casino. But on Monday, the company cancelled the auction after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from one of Icahn’s companies. Bodnar’s had solicited a high bid of $175,000.
“We are 100% focused on safety and we have been clear from the get-go that we don’t want any distractions,” a spokesperson for Icahn Enterprises told Forbes. “From the beginning we thought the auction and any other related spectacle presented a safety risk, and we were always clear that we would not participate in any way.”
Mayor Small stressed several times during his press conference that Icahn and his company has nothing to do with the new viewing party auction, which will start taking bids on February 3. An organization affiliated with Icahn is said to be making a $175,000 donation to the Boys and Girls Club.
Icahn, who Forbes estimates is worth $14.6 billion, has previously supported President Trump. During the 2016 campaign, Carl and his wife, Gail, gave committees supporting Trump $250,000, according to public filings. Gail donated a much smaller sum to the Trump campaign in the summer of 2020 for his reelection bid.
During the early days of Trump’s presidency, Icahn accepted a role in his administration as a special economic advisor. However, Icahn left the post within a year amid conflicts-of-interest concerns.
As for the soon-to-be-vacant space on the Atlantic City boardwalk, Icahn for has not released plans for what will replace the former Trump property.
Small said the city hopes Icahn doesn’t build another casino. He’s concerned about the gambling market being oversaturated in the oceanside resort city and said he’d rather see a development that offers amenities that Atlantic City currently doesn’t have, like family entertainment or new industry.
“The City of Atlantic City has one shot with that land. Not often do you have center city ocean front available,” Small said. “It’s his land, he can put anything he wants there, but hopefully we’re part of the conversation.”
For people who cannot afford to bid on the viewing party, Mayor Small said the city will open Bader Field, which spans 141 acres and has clear view of Trump Plaza, to spectators. “You have to pay for parking, but you can pull up and watch,” said Small.
Trump opened the Trump Plaza in 1984, and it closed in 2014. The Trump Plaza was one of three casinos in Atlantic City with the Trump name, including the Trump Taj Mahal, which is now the Hard Rock Café, and Trump Marina, now the Golden Nugget.
In an interview with Forbes on Tuesday, Mayor Small said his office has been getting calls from around the world. “It’ll be a worldwide event,” he says. “Everyone is fascinated.”
He denies that the city’s involvement with the event is a political act, nor is it a repudiation of Trump. “This has nothing to do with politics,” says Small. “The building closed in 2014, Trump wasn’t the president. Every year it deteriorated to the point where you couldn’t take it anymore.”
All that said, Trump Plaza was the entertainment hub of Atlantic City during its heyday. “It hosted all the Mike Tyson fights, WrestleMania IV and V. A lot of people will be emotional [when it comes down],” says Small.
As for Trump’s legacy in Atlantic City?
“I think it flamed out, similar to what you saw with his presidency,” says Small. “He’s done some great things here, obviously the jobs, the development, but he stopped paying attention to the properties and at the end it was a disaster, similar to what happened on the eve of Biden being inaugurated.”
As for what the act of blowing up the Trump Plaza means to Atlantic City, Small says it’s a prayer for the future.
“Listen, it symbolizes hope and opportunity,” says Small.