WATCH: A video history of Las Vegas implosions
LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — During the 1990s and well into the 2000s, Las Vegas gained a worldwide reputation for imploding older hotels and casinos to make way for newer and bigger resorts.
In true Las Vegas tradition, the building implosions were an event — an epic show with each one appearing to out-implode the previous.
Between 1993 to 2016, 13 major properties were imploded, and others were just torn down. Below are links to watch the biggest and most dramatic implosions along and near the Las Vegas Strip.
The first memorable implosion of the nineties took place 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 — in dramatic fashion — the Landmark 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 later used the implosion footage in his 1996 film “Mars Attacks,” though, in the movie, it was the Martians who brought the building down.) The land is now part of the new west hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
After a 44-year run, the Sands — a resort once frequented by the Rat Pack — 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 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 it was broadcast live on the Fox network. It was an event that attracted thousands of people, many of whom 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 of that year. (Footage of the implosion was used in the closing credits of the 2003 film “The Cooler.”) 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 changed hands (via a bankruptcy sale) to Planet Hollywood in June 2003.
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 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.
Opening in 1980 as the Shenandoah Hotel, this property cost $29 million and was named after the Las Vegas estate of singer Wayne Newton, who was a minority investor in the property. The casino president at the opening was John Tucker — but after a Gaming Commission investigation, his gaming license was denied because of a 1975 securities fraud conviction.
Tucker was forced to sell his $1.8 million investment, which was followed by Newton also pulling out. Newton then invested in the Aladdin. The new owners ran the Shenandoah until 1985 when it was sold to Las Vegas Investors Ltd. which changed its name to the Bourbon Street Hotel and Casino.
It changed ownership at least six more times over the next 20 years and was eventually owned by Harrah’s Entertainment in 2005, valued at $10.55 million when it was found to be structurally compromised. The hotel tower was imploded on Feb. 14, 2006.
Built in 1966 and opened as a non-gaming Holiday Inn, the property would eventually become the Boardwalk Hotel and Casino in 1989.
A few years after opening, a second tower — the Luna Park tower — opened in 1968. It wasn’t until 1977 when the owner at the time was approved by the Nevada Gaming Control Board to install 15 slot machines. By the 1980s the hotel and casino was commonly known as Holiday Inn South.
By 2000, MGM Mirage bought the property and dropped the Holiday Inn brand. But MGM Mirage would close the Boardwalk in Jan. 2006, followed by its implosion on May 9, 2006.
The Boardwalk was located at 3750 South Las Vegas Blvd. between the current Bellagio and Park MGM.
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. The building was located on the Boulder Highway, or the Boulder Strip, as it is sometimes called. Its implosion took place 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.
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, to make way for a proposed development, called Echelon Place.
Construction began on Echelon but was halted during the Las Vegas valley’s economic downtown. Resorts World Las Vegas opened on the site of the former Stardust Resort in 2021.
The Frontier (later known as the New Frontier) opened in 1942 and was demolished in an implosion on Nov. 13, 2007. But during that time, the hotel and casino made its mark on the Strip, and was notable for hosting the first Las Vegas performance from Elvis Presley and the final performance of The Supremes with Diana Ross in 1970.
The demolition and its preparation were filmed for the National Geographic Channel program “Blowdown: Vegas Casino.” Nothing has been built on the site of the property, which is owned by Steve Wynn.
The Riviera, one of the first high-rises in Las Vegas when it opened in 1955, was demolished in two separate implosions which took place on June 14 and Aug. 16, 2016.
The building was used in several Hollywood movies, including “Oceans 11” (1960), “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971), “Casino” (1995), and one of the Jason Bourne films in 2016. A year before its demolition, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority bought the property with the intention of expanding.
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