by Lisa A. Grimaldi | May 01, 2015
Local Update

After several false starts, Florida developer Glenn Straub finally closed on his purchase of the bankrupt Revel Casino Hotel for $82 million. Though several other developers had shown interest right up until the sale, the only firm offer was Straub's. The property, which cost $2.4 billion to build and closed after less than three years, never turned a profit. Stay tuned for details on when the property is expected to reopen.

Following approval of the Revel sale, Straub unveiled his Phoenix Project, a $500 million revitalization proposal that includes the purchase of the former Showboat Atlantic City resort. Current Showboat owner Stockton University had planned to open a campus in the shuttered property, but a legal agreement between Trump Entertainment and former Showboat owner Caesars, dating back to 1988 and decreeing that Showboat forever remain a gaming resort, might prevent such a move, paving the way for Straub's plan. The Phoenix Project also calls for an extreme-sports complex, an equestrian complex, water parks and marinas able to host large yachts, and redevelopment of Bader Field airport.

Set to debut in August is Harrah's Atlantic City Waterfront Conference Center. The $125.8 million venue, in the city's Marina District, will have some 125,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including two 50,000-square-foot pillarless ballrooms. At present, parent venue Harrah's Resort Atlantic City has 10 meeting rooms totaling 25,000 square feet, and 2,590 guest rooms.

A $1 million meeting incentive initiative from Meet AC is in place through 2016. The program is open to meetings new to Atlantic City, as well as groups that have not met there for at least three years. To qualify, business booked must take place by 2016 and generate a minimum of 500 room nights at an Atlantic City property; events must use the convention center or one of the local hotels.

Launched last spring to develop the destination's meeting, convention and incentive business, the nonprofit Meet AC was spun off from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and is headed by James Wood, former president/CEO of the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau in Kentucky. For more details on the new meeting initiative, go to

Billionaire financier Carl Icahn has reached an agreement with Donald Trump to allow the Trump name to remain on the 2,010-room Trump Taj Mahal Casino Hotel. The property is being acquired and financed by Icahn as it goes through bankruptcy proceedings, which were filed last fall. At that time, Trump and his daughter Ivanka filed a lawsuit to remove their name from the casino and the now-closed Trump Plaza.

Icahn also is in the midst of acquiring Trump Entertainment Resorts by swapping its debt, which he owns, in return for ownership of the company. The agreement still must be approved by a federal bankruptcy court judge. (Trump Entertainment Resorts is a separate company from the Trump Organization; Donald Trump gave up chairmanship of the Entertainment Resorts group in 2009.)

Earlier this year, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission granted preliminary approval for Hard Rock, the hospitality brand owned by Florida's Seminole tribe of Native Americans, to own a casino in Atlantic City, pending further review.

The Tropicana Casino & Resort Atlantic City is undergoing a $50 million renovation. The extensive project includes the refurbishment of the 434 guest rooms in the 2,133-room property's north tower, the expansion of Fin's restaurant, and the addition of the AtlanticCare LifeCenter fitness facility and retail shops. Also under construction is a new Boardwalk facade that will feature an interactive light-and-sound show. The upgrades are scheduled to debut by the end of this year.

The 942-room Resorts Casino Hotel is expanding its meeting space. The project, set for completion this summer, will add approximately 12,000 square feet of event space, including 11 new conference rooms, to Atlantic City's oldest gaming property. (Upon its debut in May 1978, the venue became the first legal casino to open in the United States outside the state of Nevada.) When the renovation is complete, Resorts will feature more than 64,000 square feet of meeting and event space spread among 27 rooms. The on-site Margaritaville complex debuted in 2013.

The Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa is enhancing its offerings for groups. The 2,000-room property will open an outdoor concert hall this summer and a new nightclub this fall, thanks to some $14 million in funding provided by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

In another move by the CRDA, the city's main convention and event venues, the Atlantic City Convention Center and Boardwalk Hall, will get a total of $110 million for maintenance, repairs and cosmetic upgrades over the next five years. Among planned improvements is the addition of a ballroom to the convention center.

The oceanfront Steel Pier will reopen in July with a host of new rides, including a 220-foot-high observation wheel featuring 40 cars holding six to 10 people each.

The final phase of The Walk, the city's retail outlet district, will debut this year. Among the new entries is a Bass Pro Shop with a 70,000-square-foot showroom.