Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sands to Light Up the Sky

The Sands implosion is set for Oct. 18. Here is the article from The Press of Atlantic City.

Donald Wittkowski
ATLANTIC CITY - The Sands Casino Hotel will come crashing down on Oct. 18 in a spectacular implosion that will light up the nighttime sky and give the Boardwalk some Las Vegas-style pyrotechnical pizzazz.

A six-minute fireworks display will build excitement before a series of controlled explosions rip through the 21-story hotel tower at 9:30 p.m. and bring it down in a giant cloud of dust and debris.

The Sands was in business for 26 years, but its dramatic demolition will reduce it to rubble in mere seconds. The old gaming hall, which closed for good on Nov. 11, is being razed to make way for a new $1.5 billion megaresort by Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment Inc.

Pinnacle will borrow from some of the splashy, fireworks-laden implosions of recent years on the Las Vegas Strip to create a grand sendoff all but certain to draw large crowds to the beach and Boardwalk.

John Rogers

"There's something about implosions that people are just fascinated with, even if you're not into construction or demolition. It's fascinating to watch a building come down," Kim Townsend, chief executive officer of Pinnacle's Atlantic City operations, said during an interview Thursday in which she publicly revealed the Oct. 18 implosion date for the first time.
While old gaming halls are blown up on a semi-regular basis in Las Vegas, this will be the first casino implosion in Atlantic City. The resort town has not had an implosion since a handful of posh old Boardwalk hotels were cleared out in the 1970s to make room for the new generation of casinos - among them, the Sands.

The gaming hall opened on Aug. 13, 1980, as the Brighton Hotel & Casino, switching to the iconic Sands name of Las Vegas fame the following year after a change in ownership. The Sands hit its stride in the 1980s and early '90s by catering to high rollers and bringing big-name entertainers such as Frank Sinatra to its legendary Copa Room.

However, the tiny and antiquated casino became a relic. It failed to keep pace with the upscale amenities offered by the trend-setting Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and a new wave of flashy expansion projects by its Boardwalk rivals.

Pinnacle will redevelop the Sands site for a new casino tentatively scheduled to open in 2011 or 2012. The complex is expected to include about 2,000 hotel rooms and 500,000 square feet of space for retail stores and restaurants in a mall-like setting. There will be another 250,000 to 400,000 square feet of space for the casino, conventions, an entertainment arena, a ballroom and a spa.

The old Sands, meanwhile, is already starting to resemble a bombed-out building. Contractors are reducing the superstructure to what essentially will be an empty concrete and steel shell for the implosion. The casino floor is long gone, the facade is being ripped apart and piles of demolition debris are being carted off by large dump trucks.

Pinnacle has decided to stage the implosion on a Thursday night to try to minimize disruptions, Townsend said. During the day, the surrounding area will be secured to prevent crowds from getting dangerously close. After the building is imploded, contractors will use the overnight hours to begin cleaning up debris in hopes of getting the city back to normal in time for morning rush hour.

"We thank the city of Atlantic City and New Jersey state officials for their support and cooperation in ensuring the success, excitement and safety of this landmark event," Daniel R. Lee, Pinnacle's chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

Pinnacle has been working with the city's police and fire departments and the New Jersey Department of Labor on safeguards to protect adjacent landmarks from damage. Across the street from the Sands along Indiana Avenue are the historic Brighton Park fountain and the stately red-brick tower of the Claridge Casino Hotel, originally an elegant hotel dating to the 1920s.

Townsend said the Claridge is about 120 feet away from the Sands, giving Pinnacle's demolition contractors more than enough room to carry out the implosion without danger to the Claridge tower.

"These buildings come down sometimes within eight inches of each other in New York City," Townsend said of much more challenging implosions. "The Claridge is, quite frankly, far away and out of the range of any concerns."

R.E. Pierson Construction Co. is serving as general contractor for the Sands' demolition. Controlled Demolition Inc. will place the explosives and be responsible for the implosion. CDI previously imploded the Stardust, Aladdin, Dunes and Sands casinos in Las Vegas.

Fireworks by Grucci, billed as "America's first family of fireworks," will stage the pyrotechnics preceding the Sands' implosion. Grucci created the elaborate fireworks displays that accompanied the grand openings and special events at Steve Wynn's Las Vegas casinos.

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