Traymore returns?

For years, the Traymore was an Atlantic City institution. I wrote an article about it recently for Casino Connection. Now, the land that the Traymore once occupied has been sold. From the AC Press:

Dissatisfied with its status as Atlantic City’s smallest gaming hall, the Sands Casino Hotel is buying the former Traymore Hotel site for an expansion project that would completely remake the faded, 25-year-old property.

The 7.7-acre Traymore parcel was sold Tuesday by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. to American Real Estate Partners as part of a $170 million package deal that also included the Flamingo Laughlin Hotel and Casino in Laughlin, Nev. A breakdown was not given for the price of the Traymore land.

American Real Estate Partners is an investment arm of billionaire Carl C. Icahn, who rescued the Sands in 2000 while it was floundering in bankruptcy under previous owners.

Icahn made no secret over the years of his desire to buy the Traymore site, but Caesars Entertainment Inc. wasn’t interested in selling the property when it was the owner. Harrah’s Entertainment inherited the site when it acquired Caesars Entertainment in June and immediately began looking for buyers.

“I think the Sands, from a location standpoint, is challenged,” said Richard P. Brown, the casino’s chief executive officer. “I think from a bricks and mortar standpoint, the Sands has always been challenged.”

The Traymore site, where the historic Traymore Hotel once stood, finally gives the Sands what it desperately needs – a prime oceanfront location in the heart of the Boardwalk casino strip.

Brown was coy about discussing expansion plans for the 600-room Sands after the Traymore deal was announced Tuesday. In the past, the company said it wanted to build two beachfront towers totaling 2,000 rooms and an array of retail and entertainment attractions that could rival The Quarter, the mall-like shopping complex at Tropicana Casino and Resort.

“We have nothing that is solid,” Brown said of possible development plans. “We’re just looking at a whole bunch of options at this time. We’re in the process of working through them at this point.”
Sands acquires old Traymore site

This is great news. One of the problems Atlantic City is facing is that there are too few players able to sink $1-2 billion into a new resort. Harrah’s already owns 40% of the market, so they won’t be opening anything soon. MGM MIRAGE has committed to Macau, City Center (Las Vegas), and possibly Singapore, so they won’t be developing anything in the near future. Trump needs to expand and refurbish existing properties, particularly the Taj Mahal. So this deal frees up some prime real estate for someone who apparently has the pockets to build.

Here is my advice: think big, and think Atlantic City.

I’d completely scrap the existing building, which already looks like it is 20 years out of date, and start from scratch with a 2500-room resort with sweeping ocean views.

Before World War I, the Traymore’s owners planned a 40-story tower. I’d build even higher, engineering permitting, and go over 50 stories. One of the problems of the Sands is that, architecturally, it is a total non-entity, and is dwarfed by the nearby Claridge and Bally’s tower.

If you build something both big and architecturally stunning, you redefine that whole stretch of the Boardwalk. Now, the primary visual statement is Bally’s bland pink tower. Whatever is built on the Traymore site, if it is big enough, will by default become a major part of the city’s skyline.

The original Traymore, built by noted architect William L. Price, had the right idea: step the hotel wings back as you go further, giving more people ocean views. In today’s market, you want to leave land available for future expansion and possible timeshare or condo towers.

As far as a name goes, I’d seriously consider reviving the Traymore name. It is something uniquely Atlantic City, after all, and doesn’t remind people that they’re not in Las Vegas, and that it’s no longer 1962, like the Sands does.

I’d also develop the Boardwalk frontage into something that truly interacts with the pedestrians there, maybe retail or gaming that, when the weather permits, spills over onto the boards.

This is the most exciting news about Atlantic City development in a long time.

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