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Celebrating the Decades: Implosions take down old Vegas, make room for the new

Vegas NYE

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — During the 1990s, Las Vegas gained quite a reputation for imploding older hotels and casinos to make way for newer, bigger buildings.

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The first memorable implosion of the Nineties happened on Oct. 27, 1993 when the Dunes Hotel was brought down to make way for what was billed as the most expensive hotel in the world — the Bellagio. The implosion drew national attention. It was made to look as if the pirate ships at Treasure Island fired on the old hotel to set off the blast.

Two years later, the Landmark — in a dramatic fashion — split in two as it crumbled to the ground on Nov. 7, 1995. The uniquely shaped tower, which was apparently modeled after Seattle’s Space Needle, made a grand exit. Filmmaker Tim Burton used the implosion footage in his 1996 film “Mars Attack.” In the movie, it was the Martians who brought the building down. The land is now used as a parking lot for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association.

After a 44-year run, The Sands became a pile of rubble and dust in an implosion on Nov. 26, 1996. The event received major attention and was even kicked off with a fireworks show. The Rat Pack had once ruled this resort. The Sands came tumbling down to make way for the Venetian Resort.

The Hacienda’s demise was turned into a New Year’s Eve event when it was imploded on Dec. 31, 1996. The fireworks show countdown and implosion took place just before 9 p.m. to coincide with the East Coast celebration and was broadcast live on the Fox network. It was an event that attracted thousands of people who were already in Las Vegas to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino opened on the site in March 1999.

Before Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, there was the Aladdin Hotel. The property had opened in 1962 under the name Tallyho Hotel but didn’t have a casino. That changed within a year. In 1966, it became the Aladdin hotel-casino, and the following year hosted Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s wedding. It operated until 1998 and was toppled with an implosion on April 27, 1998. The old resort posted a sign out front “Out of the dust Aladdin rises anew. See you in 2000.” The new Aladdin opened in Aug. 2000 but ran into financial problems and sold in a bankruptcy sale to Planet Hollywood in June 2003. Footage of the implosion was used in the closing credits of the 2003 film “The Cooler.”

The next implosion at the Castaways Hotel and Casino, formally known as the Showboat, was unusual in that it wasn’t along the Las Vegas Strip. It was located on the Boulder Highway, or the Boulder Strip, as it is sometimes called. The implosion was on Jan. 11, 2006, nearly two years after the property had closed. It was the sixth and final Las Vegas hotel and casino implosion of the 1990s.

Other implosions would follow but not quite as grand and attention-getting as those done in the 1990s.

The El Rancho Hotel and Casino, which had been closed for years and considered an eyesore along Las Vegas Boulevard, was imploded in the middle of the night on Oct. 3, 2000. No events surrounding the implosion were planned.

The building was originally the Thunderbird Hotel and later the Silverbird before becoming the El Rancho in 1982. It was named after an earlier El Rancho, in another location, that was destroyed in a fire in 1960. The site is now where the Turnberry Towers are located.

The Desert Inn, which once hosted numerous major stars, was imploded on Oct. 23, 2001 after it was purchased by Steve Wynn. Billionaire Howard Hughes had stayed in the hotel’s penthouse in 1966, but when he was asked to leave due to an an influx of incoming guests for New Year’s Eve, he bought the hotel and spent four years there. This was the first of many Las Vegas resorts Hughes purchased. It is now the site of the Wynn Las Vegas and the Encore.

At one time, The Stardust Resort and Casino, which opened in 1958, was home to the Lido de Paris show on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s also where Siegfried & Roy got their start and singer Wayne Newton headlined for six years. The iconic resort was imploded on March 13, 2007. It’s famous sign resides at the Neon Museum.

Construction began on Echelon but was halted during the Las Vegas valley’s economic downtown. Resorts World Las Vegas is now under construction with plans to open on the site in 2021.

The Frontier opened in 1942 and was demolished in an implosion on Nov. 13, 2007. It hosted the final performance of The Supremes with Diana Ross in 1970. It was later called the New Frontier.

The demolition and its preparation were filmed for the National Geographic Channel and a program called “Blowdown: Vegas Casino.” Nothing has been built on the property. It’s owned by Steve Wynn.

The Riviera was demolished in two separate implosions which happened on June 14 and Aug. 16, 2016. The nine-story building was one of the first high-rises in Las Vegas when it opened in 1955.

The property was used in several Hollywood movies, including Oceans 11 (1960), Diamonds are Forever (1971), Casino (1995) and a Jason Bourne film in 2016. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority bought the property to expand the convention center which is currently underway.

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