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Tropicana facing the
wrecking ball?

May 13, 2003 7:16 AM

A decision on whether to destroy the famous Tropicana Hotel, built in 1957, to make way for a new tropical-themed casino property will come in the first quarter of 2004, an official for the company that owns the Strip resort said last week.

Phoenix-based Aztar is exploring a master plan to redevelop 17 acres on the northwest corner of the 34-acre Tropicana property, across from the MGM Grand, and imploding the hotel-casino, said Neil Ciarfalia, the company’s treasurer.

The parcel includes a parking lot, some old low-rise bungalows, and the driveway leading to the resort’s casino, Ciarfalia said. However, Aztar’s development plan "would probably entail taking (down) the entire (Tropicana) facility," he said.

Company leaders are going over the master plan with architects and engineers and will make a final decision on the parcel during the first quarter of 2004, he said. If approved, the new development would have the same tropical theme.

"We’ll make an announcement about what our intentions are in the first quarter," Ciarfalia said. "If we decide not to, there probably won’t be an implosion."

The Tropicana has 1,872 guest rooms and a casino covering 85,000 square feet, which is small compared to other Strip resorts. Aztar officials said last year they might develop two hotels on the Trop site, with 3,000 rooms each, at a total cost of $1.4 billion.

Aztar is also looking at redeveloping the resort’s other 17 acres farther south, across Las Vegas Boulevard from the Excalibur hotel and an Arco gas station, Ciarfalia said.

The company, which owns the Ramada Express hotel in Laughlin and Casino Aztar riverboats in Missouri and Indiana is also gearing up for a major redevelopment of its Tropicana hotel in New Jersey property, which will face renewed competition when the Borgata casino opens there in about two months.

Ciarfalia said the New Jersey development, called The Quarter, would include 600 new hotel rooms, 200,000 square feet of dining, entertainment and retail space, a bridge to the Tropicana, and additional parking. A final decision on the proposal also will be made in the first quarter next year, he said.