Las Vegas implosion takes down the off-strip Clarion casino

AP News
Posted: Feb 10, 2015 1:59 PM
Las Vegas implosion takes down the off-strip Clarion casino

LAS VEGAS (AP) — An elevator shaft shortened and tilted a bit but withstood a more than 2-ton explosive punch meant to implode a Las Vegas hotel, and crews on Tuesday were planning a little more work to finish the job.

Most of the 12-story Clarion casino-hotel crumbled in a pre-dawn demolition designed to clear the site off the Strip and near the Las Vegas Convention Center for new construction.

But despite the detonation of 4,400 pounds of explosives, the elevator core just dropped about four stories and stayed standing.

It's leaning, said property owner and developer Lorenzo Doumani, but appears to need some help to topple. One option being considered was a wrecking ball.

Doumani said he didn't really know what kept the structure standing. Anthony Schlect, corporate safety coordinator for Burke Construction, said he was investigating.

"It'll be knocked down some way or another because it's a safety hazard," Doumiani said.

The hotel was the 13th to gain implosion infamy in a town that explodes the old to make way for the new.

Doumani had hoped it would be a lucky number as he and his family counted down to the Clarion's final seconds at nearly 3 a.m., flanked by two showgirls and having listened to a pre-implosion soundtrack of Frank Sinatra.

The 200-room casino-hotel opened in 1970 as the Royal Inn and was called the Debbie Reynolds — for its one-time owner — as well as the Greek Isles and the Paddle Wheel.

Amanda Dickerson had never stayed at the Clarion or any of its incarnations, but she reveled in its demise early Tuesday after traveling from Ripon, Wisconsin, to check an unlikely item off her life's bucket list: witness a building implosion in person.

"We don't do this in Wisconsin," she said after the dust had almost settled. "It was truly amazing."

Dickerson, 35, her boyfriend, Pete Kuhn, 38, and Las Vegas local Cherie DeWilde, who first alerted her friend to the impending implosion, had been scoping out the casino-hotel Monday when they got an exclusive invite to watch the building crumble from across the street alongside the developer, his family, friends and media.

"It was one of the best experiences of my life," Dickerson said.

What took seconds to destroy required several months of planning, Schlecht said. That extended to covering nearby pools, including at the neighboring Marriott hotel.

It's been a while since controlled explosives toppled a casino-hotel. Between 2004 and 2007, six Vegas properties were brought down, but in the eight years since, the only Strip-side implosions were the segment of the Tropicana and a parking structure.

The Clarion was no marquee property on the scale of the Stardust, which was imploded eight years ago, or the Dunes, which made way in 1993 for the Bellagio.

"It's a little harder to gin up the same degree of interest," University of Nevada, Las Vegas, history professor Michael Green said of the Clarion's less noteworthy history.

Doumani said he knew his wasn't a landmark property.

Perhaps appropriately, Doumani watched the implosion of the casino-hotel he bought last year from a parking lot that paved over the spot where the Landmark casino-hotel stood before it was demolished in 1995.

Instead the Clarion has had several names and fell into bankruptcy nearly as many times, he said.

It was the building itself, and rooms that resembled cubicles, that didn't work, Doumani said, not the location close both to the Strip and to the convention center.

His plan — or hope while he works on financing and waits for nearby development to come to fruition — is to build a 60-story hotel tower that could be the tallest occupied building in Las Vegas.

There would be no condos and no casino, he said.

"Instead of trying to compete with everybody, you have to have something unique," he said.

That could involve catering to convention-goers, including incorporating office space to appeal to companies that frequent Las Vegas for conventions.

He hopes to have a plan in place by the end of the year and doesn't expect an opening before 2018, Doumani said.