David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
Vegas On The AC Boardwalk Again
“Atlantic City, New Jersey has certainly had a storied past.” Developed in the late 1800s as a resort town, the area has seen lots of ups and downs: A beautiful resort area on the boardwalk; the inspiration for the Monopoly board game; Historical landmarks like Steel Pier (shown here); the location for a resurgence of east-coast casino gambling in the 1970s; the economic collapse in the 2000s; the epitome of a failed local economy that provided no money for surrounding area development; and the recent collapse of casinos (old, new and Trumped.)
When the Borgata Hotel Casino opened up there in 2003 it represented a new high-bar for the area. The Borgata was the first Las Vegas style resort in Atlantic City. Experiences there were head and shoulders above the other resorts. The quality of the venue’s rooms, open spaces, restaurants, shows, etc. were unmatched by the other local venues. In 2012, a new hotel casino called “The Revel” opened to try to compete with the raised bar, but it got in trouble before it even opened, and declared bankruptcy twice – the first time being almost as soon as it opened. It was one of four casinos to go out of business in Atlantic City in 2014. Joe Brancatelli covered the casino failures and reasons extensively in his 2014 article.
Having visited and stayed in The Borgata (after staying at a number of the older properties like Caesars, Harrah’s, Resorts, etc. over the years) I can attest to the fresh new experience it brought to Atlantic City. It boasted a spacious and visually pretty casino, beautiful concert and performance venues, opulent dinning (both upscale and casual) and well appointed, spacious clean rooms. Let me emphasize that – the rooms were clean – which is truly a big deal in Atlantic City. Whenever I had stayed in AC prior to The Borgata, I always had the desire to touch as little of the hotel rooms as possible, always having the feeling that they were dirty. I was never sure if they were cleaned, maintained, updated, etc. – they just had that old, bad motel feeling – even at the prior ‘best’ properties. The rooms at the Borgata however felt like the ones in Las Vegas’s best properties. A shining standout in this city of failure.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to head back to AC for a quick R&R trip with my wife. Yes, I’m still upset that the corner of Park Place and the Boardwalk still has no monument saluting Monopoly. Yes, the Borgata is still nice, and yes, we had a good time there, but in checking out the rest of area, we discovered there is now a new high-bar in town.
One of the old Trump-dumps there – long closed and abandoned – has been completely transformed into The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City.
Wow. We walked in from the boardwalk (that has barely changed in dozens of years) and was amazed at the experience. It was bright and spacious, the air smelled clean (not full of old smoke), the escalators up to the second floor were surrounded by spectacular projection-mapping images, we walked past a rock-legend-outfits hall of fame in the hallway, and proceeded to their buffet where we had a spectacular lunch. (I won’t bore you with all the varieties of food available, but I will mention it is the first time I’ve had outstanding smoked whitefish with bagels and cream cheese in an AC casino.) And then there is the rest of the memorabilia on display. To quote the Philly Enquirer: “With 480 pieces on display, Hard Rock Atlantic City has the most artifacts of any of the more than 200 outposts in the Hard Rock International chain. The items on display include numerous guitars once owned and played by the likes of Prince (a striking, custom-built purple number), Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Hendrix; a motorcycle owned by the late Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band; costumes that draped the bodies of, among others, Stevie Nicks, Dolly Parton, and Pink, and items from the personal wardrobes of Lady Gaga, Nikki Minaj and the Who's legendary, long-gone drummer, Keith Moon.” Some of the walls have panoramic images of performers as well. The resort also has plenty of entertainment choices with a new comedy club and concert venues.
The more time we spent in the casino and on the property the more impressed we were with what they’ve done. Even more so when we left for the day and walked back out onto the aged and neglected boardwalk, with the floor to ceiling photo mural of Bruce Springsteen staring at us as if to say in his gravely voice, “dudes, do you really want to go back out there?”
The resurgence in Atlantic City is showing according to this recent NJ.com article that states gaming revenue for the area is up. The new Hard Rock actually had the third highest revenue numbers for the area in its first month open. Visiting it, it is easy to see why, as they are outdoing the Borgata at their own game.
If the town does experience a sustained resurgence, I hope that this time around some of the money is dedicated to fixing-up the neighborhoods. Like I said in Joe’s article from 2014, one only has to drive by Baltic and Mediterranean avenues to understand why they are so cheap to buy on the Monopoly board.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.