ATLANTIC CITY — Want to really put an exclamation point on the end of the Trump era? Atlantic City’s got you.
The city that never backed down from a public relations opportunity is taking bids on the right to push the button to start the long-anticipated implosion of the defunct Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino building, originally scheduled for Jan. 29, nine days after the Trump presidency itself will have ended, but now delayed until February.
The auction will benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City, said Mayor Marty Small Sr., who was hoping to raise $1 million for the nonprofit. As of Thursday evening, bids had grown to at $52,500 on the Live Auction website, which is partnering with the Boys & Girls Club.
Trump Plaza closed in 2014, three decades after its star-studded opening on the center of the Atlantic City Boardwalk.
By the time of its closing, it was a creaky shadow of its former self, owned by billionaire Carl Icahn. In the years since, it has deteriorated inside and out, and become an eyesore, a safety hazard, and a political statement. (Hillary Clinton campaigned on the Boardwalk in front of it in 2016.)
The literal obliteration of the storied building carries obvious symbolism, but also nostalgia for people in Atlantic City, the mayor among them.
“Trump Plaza was the place in Atlantic City,” Small said Thursday. “Trump Plaza was the place that hosted all the major sporting events. Mike Tyson fights. I remember as a kid going to Wrestlemania IV and V.”
“It fell into an eyesore,” he said. “Every time we got a northwest wind, debris was falling from the building.”
Since word got out about the auction, Small said, he’s been “bombarded” with calls from as far away as Arkansas and California. “There’s a lot of action already,” he said.
Small said a live auction will cap the contest on Jan. 19, the day before the inauguration. At a news conference, he said the demolition company had told him Thursday that the implosion would now be delayed until February at the earliest, “due to safety reasons and weather.” He said he was taking social distancing concerns into consideration in the planning.
Small has been seeking the demolition for years, but Icahn had held off in search of public money to help fund the estimated $14 million job started months ago by Philadelphia-based Haines & Kibblehouse. The implosion is expected to leave an eight-story-high debris pile that will need to be cleared.
“People will tell you I wanted this done as fast as possible,” Small said. “I was hoping to have it done by New Year’s Eve. Demolition is extremely tedious. Safety is paramount.”
The building no longer carries any remnants of the Trump name, with the letters taken down after Trump Entertainment sued to have them removed.
On Twitter and elsewhere, people have urged Small to move up the date to coincide with the end of the Trump presidency. But he said he would defer to the demolition company and said the new goal was February, with all of the debris cleared before summer.
“I’m not playing politics with this,” Small said. “We knew Donald Trump before he became president. We knew his history in Atlantic City, and it played out on a national stage. He used the bankruptcy laws in Atlantic City and made as much money and got out. I think it’s important we do something worthwhile.”
“Getting rid of an eyesore is very big,” Small added. “I’m going to work just as aggressively to make sure something goes there. It’s in everybody’s best interest that something significant goes there.”