Las Vegas Sun

December 19, 2014

Tower tumbles into dust

As thousands of the curious today slowly passed the rubble of what was the Strip’s first high-rise hotel the question arose: What new marvel will take its place, spawned by the fertile imagination of Steve Wynn?

The Dunes Hotel, a hallmark of the Las skyline for four decades, was imploded Wednesday night into a pile of twisted metal and concrete debris, clearing the way for a new resort.

Wynn has said he plans a water-centered resort for the property, which features 1,100 acre-feet in wells not bound by government regulation. The remaining south tower may be incorporated into the new resort.

Until plans for the new are announced demolition of the old should keep people talking.

In a ceremony emceed by Wynn, chairman of Mirage Resorts Inc. and owner of the defunct casino, the 23-story Dunes and its venerable neon sign were leveled by dynamite in a fiery spectacle broadcast live by the three local network affiliates and captured on film for an upcoming television show.

A crowd that Nevada Highway Patrol Troop Steve Harney estimated at 200,000 cheered a fireworks show put on by the nationally known Fireworks by Grucci that lighted the Strip with brilliant green, red, white and gold bursts. But the loudest howls – including a standing ovation from crowds gathered in grandstands and those standing on the Strip were reserved for the death of the Dunes.

Wynn came on a public address system early, earning unintended laughter after warning those with health problem and the fainthearted to stand farther back from the doomed hotel at 3650 Las Vegas Blvd. South,

“It’s very loud, but it’s very safe,” he said, adding, “Have a good time.”

Wynn returned to center stage shortly after 10 p.m. to order the captain of the HMS Britannia, one of two ships docked at his new pirate-themed resort Treasure Island, to fire its port cannons at the Dunes.

Shortly afterward, fire exploded at the base of the sign and several fireballs flew skyward before the cannon’s “hit” sent sparks flying and the sign falling.

A series of explosions rocked the Dunes followed by fire fed by aviation fuel on every floor. The building was motionless for a few seconds, its face a mass of flames.

Then about 10:10 p.m., it fell, bathing Las Vegas Boulevard and Flaming Road in dust and black smoke.

The tower’s asphalt roofing caught fire in the implosion, but Clark County firefighters were standing by quickly extinguished the blaze.

No one was hurt in the stunt, which had been planned for months and was well publicized. One man standing in front of the Flamingo Hilton, however, was treated for smoke inhalation.

Gradually, the smoke cleared as helicopters hovered above what was once a thriving hotel.

The brightly colored signs of other resorts – Bally’s, Caesars Palace and, symbolically, The Mirage and Treasure Island – showed through the smoke.

Wynn, through spokesperson Alan Feldman, said, “The Dunes went out in glory and it will come back better than ever.”

Mark Loizeaux, president of Controlled Demolition Inc., the firm that imploded the Dunes, said he was happy with the event.

“From my location, I think it was spectacular,” he said. “It’s been an interesting buildup. We get a lot of satisfaction out of pushing the button and seeing everything go as planned.”

Planes were changes however at the last minute, when the directors of the television film “Treasure Island – The Adventure Begins” decided smoke from the six-minute fireworks show might obscure the building’s face during implosion.

As a result, the implosion itself was shortened from 38 seconds to about 23 seconds, but some smoke from the fireworks still drifted in front of the building, Feldman said.

A total of 365 pounds of dynamite placed in 426 holes throughout the building brought the hotel crashing down while 84 flash bombs and 281 fire mortars provided the pyrotechnic effects, Loizeaux said at a press briefing before the implosion.

Despite early concerns from nearby casinos, it did not appear that any other buildings were damaged in the blast.

Harney said today no major auto accidents occurred as a result of roadblocks set up for the implosion and there were no crowd problems.

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