ATLANTIC CITY — From the minute it opened more than 27 years ago, Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort was nothing like anything the city had ever seen.
From its ruby-red minarets to the onion domes that feature prominently on its facade, Trump Taj Mahal looked more like a sultan’s palace than a casino.
But over the coming month, the immense white gates and the three 2-ton stone elephants that greeted people for more than two decades on South Virginia Avenue will disappear, closing out the history of one of the most over-the-top properties in the history of the resort.
On Tuesday, contractors were busy removing gold-trimmed decorative pieces from the entrance of the property, once called the “eighth wonder of the world” by former owner and current President Donald Trump.
Over the next couple of weeks, contractors for Hard Rock International will remove the facade at the property — and all its purple, pink, green and gold accents — in preparation for the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, expected by summer 2018.
The casino followed the mold of many properties built during that period, said Steve Norton, a former Atlantic City casino executive who worked with Trump on the construction of the property.
“I think that we were trying to copy what was happening in Vegas,” said Norton, who now runs a consulting company, Norton Management LLC. “Everything out there had a theme, and I think that is what we were trying to do.”
During the planning phases, Norton and Trump disagreed on a variety of issues, including how to design the casino floor. Trump favored an open floor plan, while Norton favored a more sectioned-off casino floor, which is tradition in most casinos.
Hundreds lined up at Taj Mahal liquidation sale
The Taj Mahal liquidation sale started, Thursday with hundreds of people waiting in line to get tv's, patios, bed items, sofa, lamps, chairs, etc. July 6, 2017 (Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer)
The Taj Mahal Casino, in Atlantic City, NJ, formerly owned by President Donald Trump, conducts a liquidation sale started, Thursday with hundr…
The Taj Mahal liquidation sale started, Thursday with hundreds of people waiting in line to get tv’s, patios, bed items, sofa, lamps, chairs, …
Hundreds of people waited in line to purchase TVs, patios, bed items, sofa, lamps, chairs and everything else available during the liquidation…
The Taj Mahal liquidation sale started Thursday with hundreds of people waiting in line to get televisions, bedroom items, sofas, lamps and mo…
The Taj Mahal liquidation sale started, Thursday with hundreds of people like Gerald Winchester of Atlantic City waiting in line to get tv's, …
Kim Fantazzia, 54, of Margate, bought a pair of large urns for $500 Thursday at the Trump Taj Mahal liquidation sale. ‘These are going to look…
“He wanted everyone to see the whole floor,” Norton recalled. “In the end, he won.”
Norton said Trump wanted to use the finest marble throughout the property, but he was unable to because of cost issues.
“When I was president of the hotel association, I gave him a Captain Marble Award for the amount of marble that he used in the property,” Norton joked.
Hard Rock International and investors Joe Jingoli and Jack Morris plan to spend $500 million to renovate and rebrand the property. The project is expected to generate more than 1,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs, according to Hard Rock. The group paid $50 million for the property, according to federal records. Full-scale construction is expected to start in August, Hard Rock officials have said.
“They created a hell of a theme,” Jim Allen, Hard Rock International chairman, joked during the 21st annual East Coast Gaming Congress and NexGen Gaming Forum at Harrah’s Resort in June. “The amount of money that we are going to have spend to remove that stuff, we are spending not $10 million, not $20 million, not $30 million.”
Cheryl Alberts, of Margate, said there was no other property like the Taj Mahal.
“It was glam and glitz,” Alberts said last week as she waited for the liquidation sale at the property to start. “It was a beautiful building, and it was very large.”
Everything about the property was over the top, said Robert Ambrose, a gaming industry consultant.
“The legacy of the Taj is a monument built on the ideology of the day, reflecting the excess of the ‘80s and ‘90s,” Ambrose said. “In some respects, it is a model to a lack of vision among some of the corporate power brokers and government entities that influenced decisions during that period.”