ATLANTIC CITY — Showboat reopened as a hotel Friday, but its return to life started so quietly that some early guests thought they should have found more fuss when they got there.

New owner Bart Blatstein said he didn’t want to “over-promise and under-deliver,” explaining why he just formally announced Thursday a Friday afternoon revival for one of four city casinos that closed in 2014. And about the only evidence at the hotel of a major event for a struggling city was a bank of TV lights and cameras in the lobby before the first guests started checking in at 3 p.m.

Blatstein told reporters he plans next year to “rebrand” Showboat Atlantic City, the hotel-only property he bought in January, although he wouldn’t disclose any possible new names or other plans for the former casino.

But after Elaine Ruggiero booked a last-minute weekend visit with her daughters, Analise and Carissa, she said there’s magic in that old name for her family.

“You’re going to make me cry. This was my mother’s favorite place,” she said, adding later that her mom died last year.

She booked her room online and called to confirm, but got to Atlantic City from her home in Gloucester County and found a “closed” sign still up on Showboat’s parking garage, and chains over the entrance.

“There was nobody in here greeting you or anything,” Ruggiero said, sounding surprised. “I think there should be music or something.”

But she was happy for the $209 rate she got for a room at an oceanfront hotel, and happy to be back at Showboat.

Lisa Augustine, a hotel official, said she expected more than 100 rooms to be filled on the first night after that quiet opening. All reservations are being taken online only. The hotel’s website is, but online travel agencies also are handling rooms.

In response to repeated questions about midweek rates and future weekends, Augustine answered every one by saying, “Shop it online.”

Bill Wootton lives in Arlington, Virginia, now, but he grew up in Atlantic City’s Chelsea neighborhood and was happy to find the Showboat online, up and running again. So he decided to combine a weekend stay at the old/new hotel with a visit to family still in the area.

He remembers staying there “back, back, back in the day,” and thinks of it as “one of the nicer hotels in town.” But he wasn’t surprised by the news that it’s open again, almost two years after its former owner, Caesars Entertainment, decided to close down a casino that opened in 1987.

“I’ve been following this thing,” he said.

Wootton said he was also a fan of the old House of Blues, the entertainment-centered club that used to take up a big piece of Showboat’s Boardwalk front. Its signs are still prominent on the building too, but Augustine, from the hotel’s management, told reporters the owners are talking to “potential tenants for the House of Blues space.”

She said the hotel is opening 852 out of a total of about 1,300 rooms at Showboat, mostly on higher floors. And while it was a feat to get that many rooms ready to roll within about five weeks after Blatstein announced a July date for opening the doors again, Augustine added the physical condition wasn’t the major problem.

“It was in very good shape, and it was well-maintained over the last two years,” she said.

One of the people maintaining Showboat now is Bonnie Ingersoll, of Mays Landing. She’s in “environmental services,” she said, but used to schedule about 600 dealers for table games in the property’s casino days.

“I opened Showboat and I closed it,” said Ingersoll, one of 208 opening-day employees, “and I’m thrilled to be here to bring it back up.”

The closing “was hard on a lot of people. A lot of people were hurt,” she said. “But I’m seeing a lot of familiar faces, and it’s wonderful to see them all.”

Answering a reporter, Ingersoll said the hotel “feels like Showboat. This was my home for 28 years. I wanted to come back ... and I wanted to watch it come back.”

City Council President Marty Small shared lunch with Blatstein at one of three now-open options for food and drinks in the hotel, the Atlantic City Eatery.

“This is a tremendous day for the city. It was heavy lift ... but it will create opportunities, create jobs and it will take an eyesore of a casino and turn it around,” Small said.

He added he personally knows some people who got those jobs, saying Augustine, the manager, is “placing many Atlantic City people in the jobs.”

The other open businesses at Showboat are Worship Surf Bar, a casual spot just off the Boardwalk, and Canal Street, a coffee shop at the far end, off Pacific Avenue.

One Showboat neighbor who’s thrilled to see some life return to the building is Jean Muchanic, the executive director of Absecon Lighthouse, the South Inlet landmark a few blocks away. She noted that her historic tower, which has struggled with the closings of Showboat and neighboring Revel, shows up on Showboat’s website as a nearby attraction to check out.

“That’s exciting,” Muchanic said. As for the hotel coming back and bringing people with it, she added, “I’m happy for them. And I’m happy for the neighborhood.”

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