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Thread: Atlantic City Seeks New Image: Las Vegas's

  1. #61

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    October 17, 2006
    As Atlantic City Builds Up, the Whirl of Steel Pier Stops
    By ROBERT STRAUSS


    Steel Pier in Atlantic City was once center stage for Frank Sinatra and other acts. Now the site will be redeveloped by Trump Entertainment.

    ATLANTIC CITY — Like an aging beauty desperate to keep up with the younger competition, this half-faded resort has signed up for another face-lift.

    It is hardly a new phenomenon here, where a second generation of casinos has given the city another life. Like the Miss America Pageant, Steel Pier — which provided a stage for the likes of a diving horse and Ricky Nelson, Charlie Chaplin and Frank Sinatra — is the latest piece of Atlantic City’s past to be shed.

    The amusement park and arcade, the pier’s final incarnation over the last decade, finally closed its doors on Sunday. Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., which has owned the Boardwalk property since 1993, says it plans to develop the 1,000-foot-long pier into something completely new, though whether that is a condo or casino space, shops or a hotel, is not yet known.

    Not everyone here clings to the city’s storied past; rather, others tuck away the memories, only to bring them out like an old photo album every now and then.

    “As long as I can get in a rolling chair, buy a sandwich at the White House, and smell the salt air,” said Vicki Gold Levi, who with a former Esquire editor, Lee Eisenberg, wrote, “Atlantic City: 125 Years of Ocean Madness.” “I will still love Atlantic City. We may have lost Miss America and Steel Pier, but, heck we got Mr. Peanut back and lots of stores and restaurants, too.”

    In the past three years, several of the city’s famous fixtures — sometimes shoved aside by the increasingly acquisitive hotel and casino operators — have decided to try their luck elsewhere. Miss America, which had been a mainstay since 1921, left town last year for Las Vegas and cities unknown. Bader Field, the first place in the world known as an “air-port,” closed last month after 86 years. Even in the iconography of board games, the city has slipped: Parker Brothers decided to market a multicity version of Monopoly, whose original model has only Atlantic City streets as well as a handful of local railroads and utilities.

    Atlantic City, which for years sold itself as the “Queen of Resorts,” declined precipitously in the 1960’s, and run-down housing and vacant storefronts still pepper the city.

    But today, there is a newfound enthusiasm for yet another revival; at least three casinos have towers reaching more than 400 feet under construction or in the planning stage. Four new retail complexes with designer everything are either open for business or will be by next year. And Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., a Nevada-based casino company, bought the Sands Casino site last month for $250 million and plans to knock it down and start over with a $1.2 billion complex.

    “Atlantic City, if you study the history, always had risings like a Phoenix,” said Ms. Gold Levi, who lives in Manhattan now but grew up in the resort when her father was the city’s official photographer from 1939 to 1964. “The original wooden structures had fires. The Army Air Force took over in World War II. Gambling came in the 1970’s. This will be a new era.”

    In truth, Miss America had become a clichéd property, and Bader Field was replaced by the modern Atlantic City International Airport, about seven miles west of the city. Steel Pier had been renovated and well cared for by the amusement park operators, but it was an attraction mostly for children, not exactly the market Atlantic City is after these days.

    And it was a far cry from its heyday, when as Ed Hurst, who broadcast a dance show from the pier for 20 years, put it, “There were three featured movies in three different theaters, a minstrel show in the Casino Theater, headliners in the Music Hall Theater.”

    Today it is higher-gloss casinos, bigger-name entertainment, upscale shopping and restaurants that are the newest version of this randy old city. When the hip-hop music producer Jay-Z wanted a second outlet for his 40/40 Club, he chose a spot not far from the old 500 Club, where Sinatra hung out and Dean Martin was first paired with Jerry Lewis.

    Where Don Rickles and Johnny Mathis were the big draws at the casinos only a decade ago, acts ranging from the Rolling Stones and Madonna to the Killers and John Legend have fall dates here. Not too many years ago, Boardwalk emporiums hawking beach towels and cheap jewelry were the standard shopping areas near the windowless casinos. Today, the Piers at Caesars and the Walk, a high-end outlet mall, are destinations that vie with the craps tables.

    “You wouldn’t have gone to Michigan and Arctic without an armed guard not so long ago,” said Mr. Hurst, a leading Philadelphia disc jockey, who from 1958 to 1978 broadcast a popular “American Bandstand”-like television show on summer Saturday afternoons from Steel Pier. “Now it’s chic. It’s hard to complain about losing the old Atlantic City when you see that.”

    Even the investment firm Morgan Stanley has joined the gold rush, buying a 20-acre parcel at the north end of the Boardwalk. And a consortium led by a former casino executive, Wallace Barr, is buying a site at the south end of the city. Stephen Wynn, who once owned the Golden Nugget Casino here, is said to be looking into the Bader Field property even though it is not currently zoned for casino development. And the Borgata, Harrah’s and the Trump Taj Mahal will all soon have new hotel-casino towers.

    So it is not surprising that Steel Pier — which for almost 50 years featured a young woman astride a horse plunging 40 feet into a 12-foot-deep tank of water — could not keep up with the Las Vegas look and feel that Atlantic City aspires to.

    Even Mr. Hurst, who for a generation of rock ’n’rollers was the face of Steel Pier, had to concede the other day: “Only a few years after we started the show, they booked fewer and fewer top acts. Air travel was getting cheaper. People slowly started not coming to Atlantic City.”



    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  2. #62

    Default AC is on Fire!

    Just a few quick notes reading some of the more recent posts:

    There are said to be at least 3 new resorts (by Morgan Stanley/Kevin DeSanctis, Pinnacle (Sands site) and Barr/Bashaw) on the way. But announcing a new resort development in AC that never makes it to grand opening is unfortunately an old tradition in AC.

    With that said; this market is completely underserved and would explode if new resorts were built. The city is literally busting at the seams as it is. It is now fashionable to see and be seen in AC. Does it still have bad areas..a resounding YES, but progress can easily be seen throughout the city and AC is on its way to becoming the Queen of Resorts it once was.

    Other notes:

    Yes, AC desperately needs more air service. Jet Blue would be a fantastic addition.

    Also, I understand the South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA) met recently to address infrastructure/transportation issues. A light rail/monorail that linked everything up would be ideal as suggested.

    If you have not been to a Trump Hotel recently, I would suggest taking another look. More so at Trump Plaza. The place looks great and the more lucrative customer base seems to be back again. The re-design appears to be working out well.

    More on Hard Rock....A few years back before Trump Castle became Trump Marina, Trump negotiated with The Rank Group (owner of Hard Rock) to convert the Castle to a Hard Rock Hotel/Casino (I believe the official name was going to be "Hard Rock Hotel Casino at Trump Marina"). For reasons that I do not know, the transaction never happened. Trump went ahead and re-branded the Castle as “Trump Marina” and gave it a younger-crowd feel. This was very successful and marked a great turn-around for the property until Borgata arrived. Rightfully so, this incredible resort stole a great portion of the Marina customer base (and Taj’s) and it’s President (who is now president of The Borgata)!

    There are rumors that Rank is very much interested in bringing a Hard Rock branded Casino to AC. It would be a MAJOR player in my mind. We shall see……

  3. #63

    Default Good buy to Steel Pier…give me a break!

    What remained in no way resembled the Steel Pier.

    Donald tried to revive it a few years ago by first trying to strike a deal with Six Flags to operate it. When that did not pan-out, he tried brining back the rides and old attractions (I believe a wish of Mark G. Etess, the 1st president of the Taj, who tragically died in the infamous helicopter crash shortly before the Taj opened). Unfortunately animal protectionists went nuts when he brought back “The Diving Horse”. So the diving horse attraction was scrapped and what remained was cheap carnival amusements that can be transported and found at any neighborhood fundraiser. It actually made the boardwalk side of the Taj look trashy in my opinion.

    Building another classy destination (hotels rooms, casino, shops, restaurants etc) would be more of a tribute to the original Steel Pier.

  4. #64

    Default

    I was in AC this past weekend, stayed at the Borgata, and let me tell you, The Trump Marina from the outside, looks like the biggest POS next to the Borgata.

    I'm 25 yr old male, and I'll admit my fav AC hotel is the TAJ (Borgata is too boojie and pretentious) but me and my friends were saying, if they just built newer hotels like the Borgata, and a few more airlines in here, thered be much more to do here as people would stay longer than a night.

    It only makes sense, people WANT TO PAY TOP MONEY FOR THE TOP HOTELS. Why else would anyone pay 565 a night to stay at the bogata when harrahs and marina are right next door for 200???

  5. #65
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    There are said to be at least 3 new resorts (by Morgan Stanley/Kevin DeSanctis, Pinnacle (Sands site) and Barr/Bashaw) on the way
    Does that include Steve Wynn, Wynn is back in Atlantic City eyeing the recently closed Bader Field Property.

    They need to do what ever is necessary to "land" Jetblue, with Southwest dominating PHL they are not going to come to Atlantic City, nor is Jetblue going to go to Philadelphia to compete head to head with Southwest.

    These routes are what the SJTA and the casinos should be trying to attract to Atlantic City International Airport.

    Jetblue:
    Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, Ft.Myers, Las Vegas, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach.

    Airtran:
    Atlanta, Chicago Midway

    Continental:
    Cleveland, Newark

    DL:
    JFK

    US Airways:
    Charlotte, Pittsburgh

    United:
    Washington Dulles, Chicago Ohare

    American:
    Miami.

  6. #66
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    My favorite Atlantic City Casino is Tropicana, the Quarter is so much fun. My fiancee and I love P.F. Changs and Carmines.

    Trump hopefully will be investing some serious money into his properties to catch up to Tropicana and Borgata, I would look to what Tropicana has done with the Quarter, and what Ceasars has done with the Pier.

    That Trump almost partnered with Hard Rock on the Marina property is something I did not know, the Marina is the perfect property for such an Investment. I can only hope they try to bring Hard Rock Hotel to Atlantic City again.

    Atlantic City is on the way up, this time is for real IMO.

    Other improvements that need to be made.

    Light Rail to connect the Casinos, Convention Center, NJ Transit Rail Station and the Atlantic City International Airport.

    Widening of the Garden State Parkway, and the Atlantic City Expressway.

    Direct entrances to Atlantic City International Airport from the Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.

    Dedicated year round daily rail service between New York City/Northern New Jersey and Atlantic City, something no longer than 2.5 hours.

  7. #67

    Default More on AC

    You got it right G Money. Trump Marina was my favorite property before Borgata opened. Now I look out of the window, of my room at Borgata, and can’t help but think that it does look like a POS! At one point during Trump’s bankruptcy restructuring, the T in Trump Maria was out! The Donald of the 1980’s would never stand for that. But we can’t blame him for an ugly looking building. Hilton actually built it, did not get licensed by the NJ CCC and then Trump bought it from them and opened it as Trump’s Castle. In the very beginning, they were even utilizing Hilton casino chips.

    It’s too bad, because Trump Marina was a really fun place (virtually pioneering the market to a younger “hip” crowd) and is still quite comfortable. Trump actually did a nice rehab on the rooms there recently. Many of my friends still stay there since rates are more reasonable and then party at Borgata/Trop/Taj.

    Who knows what the future holds for that property. It is in a fantastic location. One impediment is that MGM owns a sizable chunk of land next to it bordering the inlet/Brigantine bridge. Ideally Trump should look to purchase that land from MGM, tear down the Marina and build all over again (as also suggested by various gaming analysts). Two problems though. (1) Would MGM be willing to sell? (2) Does Trump Entertainment Resorts have the capital to undertake such a project? My own thoughts are mixed, but off the bat, I would say no to both of them.

    One final note about the Marina. It was originally envisioned to have another hotel tower (possibly 1,000 more rooms or so??). In the early 1990’s Trump had proposed building it and even had design work on exterior and interior going on. It would have been a great addition to that property. Its base (casino, restaurants etc) could absorb that capacity and it would have provided AC with more desperately needed hotel rooms.

    I can keep going on and on……

    Some other notes:

    The 3 possible casino additions that I mentioned DO NOT include a property by Wynn. I only wanted to include ones that are more definitive. Everyone knows Wynn wants to be back in AC. Speculation is that he is interested in developing Badar Field as was mentioned. This is an A+ site for a Wynn resort and could be one of the greatest casino development sites ever available. There are a few obstacles involving that site that would need to be ironed out still before gaming is considered (if you want to know them, I would be happy to discuss more).

    In regards to a Toll Brother’s development…Bruce Toll recently purchased boardwalk property (former Playboy/Atlantis/Trump Regency/Trump World’s Fair site) to build a massive residential project (rumored). Further details at this time are not known, but rumors are circulating that he will announce something soon. My own feelings are that it could be one of the greatest casino sites in AC. How could this be accomplished with a non-casino land use restriction currently on the property (Trump put it on the property before it was sold to limit competition) may you ask? Well Trump himself envisioned purchasing the West Hall of Boardwalk Hall which I do not believe is protected by national landmark status (does anyone know?) and combining its footprint with that of Trump World’s Fair and constructing a massive new resort on that site. Similar to Trump Plaza, it would be ideally located at the foot of the AC expressway, adjacent to The Walk, on the beach & boardwalk and connected to Boardwalk Hall. It does not get much better than that. But as his company was taking a dive he cut a deal with shareholders to sell the Trump World’s Fair site and deliver proceeds from the sale to them as a condition to the company’s bankruptcy reorganization. So Toll bought the property which as I mentioned has a land use restriction that does not permit a casino. BUT WHAT ABOUT WEST HALL??? Toll has said that he would love to utilize West Hall in his development. Why not build a huge new casino/resort with the gaming portion limited to the footprint of the West Hall? My instincts tell me that this could be done, but my knowledge of the West Hall and the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority’s intentions (the West Hall’s owner) are limited. Anyone have this knowledge?

    On Jet Blue. My only feeling is that AC International’s only real player (Spirit Airlines) flies to most of Jet Blue’s Florida destinations already. Jet Blue should come in and offer routs to the west (AC to Vegas???). I must say that Spirit seems very committed to AC International. They are a good airline that actually started out of AC International as a charter. Hopefully they can add more flights as they grow.

  8. #68
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    Trump, Wynn deal may be in the cards
    Talks involve sale of A.C. casino
    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    It seems Steve Wynn wasn't interested in just the Mets when he visited Donald Trump last week.

    The Las Vegas casino king and the Atlantic City gambling mogul, prominently seen together behind home plate during the Mets' Game 7 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night, were talking about a deal that would dramatically alter Atlantic City.

    Two people with knowledge of the negotiations said Wynn wants to build a casino on the boardwalk, and his preferred site includes 12 acres where the Trump Plaza sits. The people spoke on the condition they not be identified because the talks are in the preliminary stage.

    Although Wynn usually prefers dozens of acres of land for his huge gambling creations, he is drawn to the Plaza because of its prime location at the foot of the Atlantic City Expressway, the sources said. If a deal were to go through -- and the sources cautioned the negotiations could ultimately fall apart -- Wynn would tear down Trump's casino and build his own.

    But Trump, whose name is on three Atlantic City casinos, wouldn't be scaling back on the seaside resort altogether. He is interested in building a residential tower in front of the Trump Taj Mahal. The deal also might include a swap for land that Wynn owns in Las Vegas, the sources said.

    Gov. Jon Corzine, who was approached by Wynn in September, declined to comment yesterday. Wynn did not return calls seeking comment, and Trump spokeswoman Rona Graff said Trump insists that reports of a deal over the Plaza are "not true."

    Sen. William Gormley, the powerful Republican who holds sway with the casino industry, said of the Trump-Wynn appearance at the Mets game: "They're two highly successful individuals, both of whom have meant a lot to Atlantic City.

    "Given that we have a governor who understands Atlantic City and given two business people of their caliber, it would be great to see something happen," said Gormley, who has taken a lead role in ushering Wynn back to New Jersey after a decade-long absence. "It would be great for Atlantic City."

    An agreement to sell any of the Trump casinos would have to be approved by Trump Entertainment Resorts' board of directors. Trump is chairman of the board and the company's largest single shareholder.

    A deal between the two biggest names in the gambling business would solve problems for both casino bosses, industry observers said. Wynn, who once vowed never to return to A.C. when he sold the Golden Nugget in 1987, would gain a foothold in the country's second-largest gambling market and give his customers who live on or visit the East Coast a place to gamble.

    Trump, who is under pressure from investors to diversify his casino holdings beyond Atlantic City, would get an influx of cash to invest elsewhere.

    Trump Resorts has yet to report a profit since the company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2005. Because all of its casinos are in Atlantic City, it was the hardest hit by the three-day government-imposed casino shutdown over the summer.

    Trump Resorts is currently vying for a casino in Philadelphia, but it wants to expand beyond the Northeast. Last month, Trump Resorts announced it had hired Eric Hausler, formerly a casino analyst with Bear Stearns, as its senior vice president of development. His job: identifying "opportunities to expand the Trump brand," according to a company press release.

    The problem is cash. The company needs to find a way to expand without taking on more debt. It emerged from Chapter 11 with $1.25 billion in debt and a $500 million line of credit.

    "The thing with Atlantic City is that it's a pretty solid market, but it's a seasonal market," said Morgan Joseph analyst Adam Steinberg. "I'd like to see them diversify away from Atlantic City and doing it so they don't take on more leverage."

    A big obstacle in the way of a sale of any of the casinos is that Trump has veto power over the transaction. If he waives his veto right, the company would give him up to $100 million in tax indemnification for personal tax liabilities he would incur from the sale.

    Wynn, who has built some of the most recognizable casinos, from Bellagio to Wynn Las Vegas, first came to Atlantic City in 1980 when he opened the Golden Nugget, a slick trendsetting casino that lured high rollers and became home to Frank Sinatra. It quickly became one of the city's most profitable casinos. But Wynn left seven years later because of the state's harsh regulatory climate, vowing never to return to Atlantic City.

    Wynn was close to returning to Atlantic City in the 1990s with plans for three casinos in the Marina District. His company, then called Mirage Resorts, signed a controversial deal with the state of New Jersey, which agreed to kick in $220 million toward a $330 million tunnel to the Marina District. Mirage subsequently was bought by rival MGM Grand, and only one casino, Borgata, has opened there.

    More recently, Wynn has sent Richard "Skip" Bronson, a former Mirage director and Wynn's point man in A.C. in the 1990s, to scope out places in Atlantic City. Both men have been at Gormley's home to discuss potential sites. And last month Wynn traveled to A.C. for a private audience with Corzine to discuss prospective sites.
    Tearing down the older casinos to build bigger more modern casinos hopefully is going to totaly reshape Atlantic City,for the better.

  9. #69

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    The Tropicana?

    OMG. I took a walk through that place about a year and a half ago. I couldn´t believe they´d still make places like that. While the Borgata hits some sophisticated interior-design notes, the Tropicana has a laughable Cuba theme going, complete with a fake piazza. It´s 1974 gross. A masses-with-fat asses, leisure-suited kinda place. The Borgata understands that catering to that crowd is not were the future is.

    Worse still is the fact that the Trop turns it´s back to the boardwalk and beach and has created fortress-like walls along the street. It´s a mess.

  10. #70

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    Build more borgata type casinos, and people will come. I truly think its that simple. I dont believe the seasonal excuses becuase last i heard, vegas was cold in the winter too. The casinos in AC blow. Theyre old, theres nothing but old people around (no offense to the older crowd). If they want to make money they have to cater to the free spenders in there 20's 30's.

    They should tear them all down. And start over. Vegas did it.

  11. #71

    Default

    Build more borgata type casinos, and people will come. I truly think its that simple. I dont believe the seasonal excuses becuase last i heard, vegas was cold in the winter too. The casinos in AC blow. Theyre old, theres nothing but old people around (no offense to the older crowd). If they want to make money they have to cater to the free spenders in there 20's 30's.

    They should tear them all down. And start over. Vegas did it.

  12. #72

    Default

    The funniest thing about the Cuban piazza at the Trop is that there´s a 1950s Buick sitting in it. Slightly junky...the way Cuba is filled with old American cars. I´m surprised they didn´t have shoe-less kids begging for money. All of this is surrounded by the ringing slot machines nearby.

    I felt like I was in an episode of the Simpsons.

  13. #73

    Default

    Trump, Wynn talk casino deal

    ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., Oct. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. casino mogul Steve Wynn and developer Donald Trump are discussing a deal that reportedly involves property in Atlantic City, N.J.

    Wynn wants to build a casino on the city's boardwalk, the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger reported Tuesday, and his preferred site includes 12 acres where the current Trump Plaza sits.

    For his part, Trump is interested in building a residential tower in front of the Trump Taj Mahal. Also, investors in Trump's Atlantic City properties have urged him to diversify his casino holdings beyond the New Jersey site, a move that might be easier if he sells acreage to Wynn.

    Any deal between the two businessmen might also include a swap for land that Wynn owns in Las Vegas, the newspaper reported, citing anonymous sources.

  14. #74

    Default

    What Atlantic City really needs is some great architecture. A hotel/casino designed by a star architect.

    EVERYTHING built there since casino gambling came in has been ugly stuff, stuck in a 1970´s Las Vegas time-warp. Do a hotel designed by Jean Nouvel, get in Phillipe Stark. No one in the year 2006 wants to see fiberglass palm trees.

    What I really liked about the interior of the Borgata is that the design doesn´t talk down to the customer. No marketing team telling one another what the hicks want.

  15. #75

    Default Trump/Wynn

    My own opinion is that the Trump/Wynn Trump Plaza deal is wild speculation and most likely untrue. Although it is a great site and both could benefit by such a proposal. We shall see.....

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