ATLANTIC CITY — There was an unfamiliar feeling in the city Thursday morning, as the news everyone wanted to talk about, for the first time in a while, was good news.
From the Boardwalk to City Hall to Trenton’s halls of power, there was optimism in the words and voices of residents and press releases of politicians following the announcement of a Hard Rock casino opening next summer on the site of the empty Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort.
“It’s great news for Atlantic City. It’s great news for future employees, great for the economy, and Hard Rock’s a good corporation with a good history,’’ said Bob Pantalena, 75, of Ventnor, as he took his daily walk by the shuttered building. “Atlantic City is on the move. It’s a perfect situation.”
ATLANTIC CITY — Since 1984, Trump Plaza has been a fixture on the resort’s historic Boardwal…
The Taj, which closed Oct. 10, is being sold to a group of investors led by Hard Rock International. The site will be rebranded as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City as part of a $300 million purchase and renovation expected to create 3,000 temporary and permanent jobs, seller Carl Icahn said.
While no purchase price was given, the property was valued at $86 million, according to Icahn Enterprises’ 2016 financial report.
In City Hall, Mayor Don Guardian, accustomed to having to defend the city amid casino closings, shootings and an ongoing financial crisis, greeted the news happily, pointing to the city’s resiliency through tough times.
Editor's note: This story was originally published March 1, 2017.
“We have over 160 years of investors who believe in Atlantic City, investors who continue to believe that our best days are still ahead,” Guardian said.
The addition of Hard Rock to the gambling market should not have a major impact on the city’s seven other casinos, said Colin Mansfield, director of U.S. corporates at Fitch Ratings.
“With or without it, A.C. is still a $2.4 billion market,” Mansfield said. “It’s a positive that more than 2,000 rooms will be back online. I visited the property last year, and it’s clear that there has not been a lot of investment in it.”
Gov. Chris Christie called the addition of Hard Rock to the Boardwalk a chance to spur redevelopment, something he took credit for helping to make happen through the state takeover of the city.
“There is no doubt that this purchase was encouraged by our efforts to stabilize the finances of the city government,” Christie said.
The project is expected to provide a much-needed boost to the region’s job market. The Taj Mahal, once owned by now-President Donald J. Trump, closed amid a strike by Unite Here Local 54 union members, putting 2,100 people out of work.
“We look forward to working with the new owners to create those good quality jobs and bring business back to the property,” said Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54. “The vision of casino gaming in Atlantic City always included good middle-class jobs, where workers also benefited from legalization of gaming here.”
City Councilman Frank Gilliam said the Hard Rock deal is a sign of better times ahead for the city.
“A brand like Hard Rock is something that could pretty much be the change we were looking for and be the change Atlantic City needs,” Gilliam said.
The deal has a strong local connection. Hard Rock’s President and CEO Jim Allen has a home in Linwood. Developer Joseph Jingoli, one of the partners with Hard Rock, lived in the Chelsea section of the city for about 10 years.