In the next few weeks, you’re going to be hearing a lot about Revel Resorts. That’s the new $2.4 billion casino complex that’s opening up on the north end of the Boardwalk in Atlantic City on April 2 (they’re doing a six week preview before the entire building opens up on Memorial Day weekend).
But the more interesting new thing going on construction wise in Atlantic City, at least to me, is the $150 million renovation project at the Golden Nugget, which I saw first hand on Friday while attending the New Jersey Conference on Tourism. It’s a much needed infusion of cash and life into what had become the forgotten step-child of the Trump empire.
The building originally opened in 1985 as Trump’s Castle and became Trump Marina in 1997. In 2008, Trump Entertainment sold the building to a company that was to turn it into a Margaritaville-themed casino. When the economy, and Atlantic City gambling revenues, took a nose dive, the company who bought the casino wanted a big discount. Trump Entertainment balked, and killed the deal. Trump Entertainment also filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
So what happened to Trump Marina? Nothing – and this was a bad thing. The building looked stale, still decked out in gaudy, blaring 1980s and 1990s casino styles. It didn’t look like any money was being invested in the upkeep of the property. Trump Marina was a stale throwback in a town where almost every other casino was building on or at least constantly renovating to keep up with modern tastes and styles. To me, the lobby even looked grimy from years of accumulated smoke and dirt. I told people not to stay there. It didn’t seem worth the cheap room rates being offered.
The Golden Nugget took over in 2011, and things started changing. They kept the property open while starting extensive renovations. Right now, the main thoroughfare of the property is decked in scaffolding as the 1980s and 1990s become more now. I peeked into the new spa, which looks like a place I’d visit at one of the newer or renovated casinos. Same for the rooms, too. I toured a junior suite, which comes with a pillow top bed, big L-shaped leather couch and desk area that’s nicer than anything I’d ever owned. Instead of over the top glitz, the rooms are styled with deep chocolate browns and rich reds. The bathrooms have been redone, too, in cool creams with strips of subway style tile accents throughout that’s up to date with what I see in every design magazine coming through my mailbox these days.
For a non-gambling Atlantic City visitor, I liked it. I wouldn’t mind recommending it to people now, especially since the Golden Nugget is still offering lower rates than Harrah’s and the Borgata, the other two casinos on the marina side of the island.
If Atlantic City is going to succeed as a town reliant on gambling, these kinds of aging properties need to be kept up to date, yanked out of their former glory days, and turned into something that anyone would want to stay at, not just those who cling to nostalgia. Sure, $150 million is peanuts compared to what’s going on at Revel, but it’s a good thing for the AC gaming community.
Just be warned if you’re staying there now. Construction starts at about 7:30 in the morning on weekdays. If you want to sleep in, you might be trying to do so the the tune of hammers and drills until the renovations are complete (which I’m told is the end of March).