ATLANTIC CITY — One of Atlantic City’s dormant casino complexes is scheduled to come back to life Friday almost two years after it closed, but Showboat Atlantic City will reopen strictly as a hotel.
Bart Blatstein, whose company bought Showboat from Stockton University in January, said Thursday that the first guests are set to start checking in to the 852-room hotel at 3 p.m. Friday. Its former owners, Caesars Entertainment, had closed the property on Labor Day weekend of 2014, about 27 years after it opened.
At the front desk Thursday afternoon, workers said they weren’t taking reservations from people walking in, and all bookings are happening online. A statement from Blatstein’s Tower Investments referred potential guests to the hotel’s web site, showboathotelac.com, which was taking bookings starting Friday.
For this weekend, the site listed the “best flexible rate” as $209 Friday and $309 Saturday, for a total of $518 plus taxes. Expedia, the travel web site, quoted a slightly higher total price with all taxes and fees added on.
Workers were busy Thursday doing everything from scraping weeds from a street outside the hotel to cleaning windows along the Boardwalk. Fernando Blancas, of Valcourt Building Services, was doing that, but most of the work was going on behind the scenes. Contractors’ trucks were in surface parking lots off the Boardwalk and Showboat’s garage had vehicles parked in it, at least at ground level.
From the front desk, a visitor could see an empty casino floor off toward the Boardwalk, with the old slots and table games all apparently gone.
The signs for the also-closed House of Blues nightclub are still up along the Boardwalk, and billboard-sized ads for Showboat’s former casino identity still hang along the exterior, looking to lure in people off the boards.
Larry and Carol Lanza, of Lindenhurst, N.Y., were walking by Thursday afternoon wondering whether Showboat or the neighboring Revel skyscraper were open for business. They stayed at a Marina District hotel for a visit last summer, but the wife said the last time she’d been to Atlantic City before that was about 25 years ago, when she stayed at Showboat.
“It stinks seeing all this closed down,” she said, although both were happy to hear about Showboat returning to life.
Eugene Sinkler, of Staten Island, N.Y., was confused as he passed by Thursday.
“Is this open?” he said, adding that he was staying next door at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. But he also took it as good news that the neighboring building is ready for visitors again. “When I do come back, I might want to stay here.”
Blatstein, the new owner, bought the Showboat from Stockton after the university’s plans to turn the tower into an Atlantic City campus fell apart because of conflicting deed restrictions on the property. When Caesars sold the building to Stockton, they had a clause in the deal saying Showboat couldn’t operate as a casino.
But the then-owners of the Taj Mahal said they would enforce a restriction in a deal that dated back to Showboat’s 1987 opening; that clause said the building had to run as a casino. Caught in the middle, Stockton sold to Blatstein, after a previous deal with Revel’s new owner, Glenn Straub, fell through.
“This is an exciting time for us — Tower Investments embraced this opportunity and hit the ground running to make the opening of this hotel happen in time for the prime summer tourist season,” Blatstein said in a statement.
“We are extremely proud of this hotel, the fact we are open for guests now and that we are creating hundreds of jobs in Atlantic City,” the owner added later.
Howard Katen, of Atlantic City, was an interested observer in what was going on as he sat on the Boardwalk Thursday. He saw Showboat sometimes as it was being built, and said he’ll be happy to see the doors open again.
“I remember the $5.95 buffet that you had to stand in line for three hours to get,” he said. “This was good at one time.”
But “I’d like to see the whole place come back,” he added, meaning the casino too. “I’d like to see the whole city come back.”