deluge of dust
Howard Stutz, Las Vegas Gaming Wire
VEGAS, Nev. - When Sherie and James Johnson heard
the Stardust was scheduled for demolition, the Salt Lake City
couple knew they had be in Las Vegas to bid farewell to an
years ago, the couple honeymooned at the Stardust. Off and
on for about seven years on their anniversary, they returned
to the hotel to celebrate, staying in the same room, 3103.
a grassy knoll in the New Frontier's north parking lot, the
Johnsons could see what remained of their favorite room and
were witnesses as the 32-story shell of the hotel tower was
felled by 428 pounds of dynamite shortly after 2:30 a.m. Tuesday
after a four-minute fireworks display.
hope this doesn't mean our marriage is going to crumble as
well," James Johnson joked as the couple waited along
with their friends, Aime and Tom Lee, and thousands of other
tourists and Las Vegas residents in the wee hours for the
Stardust to be imploded.
had a lot of good memories at the Stardust," Sherie Johnson
said. "It's kind of sad."
Gaming Corp. executive Robert Boughner had similar feelings.
He oversaw the construction of the Stardust tower in 1988,
which was part of a $50 million expansion of the Strip resort.
It took construction crews 18 months to complete the hotel
high-rise and it took less than 18 seconds for the remnant
said company executives realized last year that the tower
had to be removed to make way for the planned $4.4 billion
Echelon project, a 5,000-room complex with five hotels (the
3,400-room Echelon and four smaller boutique hotels), a 140,000-square-foot
casino, along with retail, convention, dining and entertainment
amenities. The Echelon site is 87 acres. Groundbreaking is
scheduled for mid-June; the project is expected to open in
looked at trying to preserve the tower and incorporate it
into the project," Boughner said. "But in the end,
it was much more workable to have a clean slate for the development
Stardust closed in November after a 49-year run. Many of the
casino's former executives, employees and three busloads of
former Stardust VIP customers watched from an enclosed compound
in the New Frontier parking lot as the building was imploded.
a fireworks display that included almost 3,000 aerial shells,
a 10-second countdown to the implosion lighted up on the face
of the Stardust's tower using a pyrotechnic display. The explosives
then took out the support columns for both the main tower
and a smaller nine-story tower that had housed guests since
1964. More than 500,000 tons of concrete and steel crashed
demolition raised a thick cloud of dust that moved across
the Desert Inn Super Arterial and onto the Strip, covering
buildings and causing spectators in the New Frontier parking
lot to scramble for cover.
took more than 20 minutes for the dust to dissipate and settle.
Stardust implosion marked the first time in about a dozen
casino demolitions since the early 1990s that the company
that originally financed and built the tower also paid to
Gaming Chairman Bill Boyd, who spearheaded the company's purchase
of the Stardust in 1985, said he had mixed emotions about
closing the Stardust. The casino gave the company its initial
presence on the Strip, which will greatly be expanded by the
construction of Echelon.
very emotional about this," Boyd said. "The Stardust
gave us some great memories, but what we're bringing in its
place will be a tremendous addition to the Strip."
four grandsons, Taylor, Joseph, John and William, pushed the
ceremonial plunger to start the fireworks display.
executives tried to balance the hoopla surrounding the Stardust
demolition while focusing on the future unveiling of the Echelon
given the Stardust a long goodbye," Boyd Gaming President
Keith Smith said. "This is its finale."
spectators who found their way to the New Frontier parking
lot Tuesday morning were more interested in the fast goodbye:
the implosion. Other observers lined the Strip and packed
neighboring casino parking garages. Wynn Las Vegas' parking
garage was crowded with onlookers.
West, a casino worker at the Excalibur, sat on the roof of
his minivan in the New Frontier parking lot with two different
cameras waiting to record the event. He originally planned
to be on the roof of the Circus Circus parking garage, but
decided to go where the Boyd Gaming VIP party would take place,
figuring it would be the prime location.
never seen one of these implosions in person, so this was
a great opportunity," said West, who secured his front
row location about three hours before the implosion.
Vegas residents Jacquline and Al Martinez arrived in the Frontier
parking lot around midnight with their two children to take
in the implosion. While 4-year-old Alexis slept in a car seat,
her excited brother Dominick sat in a chair with his camera
and awaited the fireworks. His father said Dominick, a fifth-grader
at Smith Elementary, would be in class Tuesday.
trip was worth it, Al Martinez said.
seen (implosions) on TV," Al Martinez said. "Seeing
it live is so much better."
Iowa State University students on spring break wandered from
their rooms at Circus Circus and sat right at the rope line,
sharing two 12-packs of Bud Lite.
five Medford, Ore., residents, still in town after attending
last weekend's NASCAR races at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway,
saw the implosion as free Las Vegas-style entertainment. They
staked out the top of a large electrical box in the New Frontier's
parking lot to witness the implosion.
was a nice surprise and an added bonus," said Laura O'Shea,
as she shared a kiss with Aaron Pardee about an hour before
the implosion. "You don't see anything like this in Medford."