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  • Gina Matarazzo

When the Carnival is Over- The Sad Demise of One of Atlantic City’s Liveliest Hotels: The Showboat

On March 30, 1987, the Showboat Hotel, Casino, and Boardwalk opened its doors. The 60,000 square-foot hotel and 60 lane bowling alley became the newest addition to the thriving Atlantic City Boardwalk. The Showboat, as many called it, didn’t get its signature Mardi Gras / Carnival theme until 1995 when the Steelman Partners completed their major renovation of the hotel. The Showboat then became one of the the liveliest casino-hotels on the Boardwalk. Going to the Showboat was like going to Mardi Gras. The hotel featured lively jazz musicians in the lobby, costumed-figures walking around the main hallways, murals that featured clowns, dancers, and other typical Mardi Gras scenes. It was definitely a place to feel alive!

But, with the changing times, so came the changing atmosphere. The once populated bowling alley became the victim of disinterest. People in the late 1990s began to lose interest in bowling, so the owners of the Showboat changed it into something people would be interested in—a buffet and coffee shop. Known as “The Quarter”, the buffet featured some of the best food I have ever had in Atlantic City. Still, more change was needed to accommodate the changing interests of tourists. In 2001, the 544-room Orleans Tower was built, followed by the Bourbon Tower, and eventually a House of Blues section. Even with all this change, the Showboat was still as lively as it can be.

My family would vacation in Atlantic City yearly. Most times we would stay at the Showboat. I loved it. It was right on the Boardwalk, so access to the beach was simple—literally just take the elevator down, walk out the doors, and there you were. The Showboat had amazing shops and restaurants. The Showboat was the first place I had Starbucks Coffee. It truly played a special role in my childhood and early adult life.

Sadly, in June of 2014, it was announced that the Showboat was closing. The reason for this closure was to ensure that the other hotels owned by Caesars Entertainment—who, of course, also owned the Showboat—could still operate the other, probably more thriving, casinos. On August 31, 2014, 10,016 days after its opening, the Showboat closed. 22% of the employees at the Showboat were immediately hired by other Atlantic City casinos. So many different uses of the Showboat were proposed, including renovating the building and creating residential housing for Richard Stockton College. I couldn’t see that working and I’m glad it never came about. See, the Showboat is situated between the now-closed Taj Mahal and lively Ocean (formerly the Revel). So, having a bunch of college students living there, kind of spells out a recipe for trouble. Luckily, developers decided to keep it a hotel and on July 8, 2016, the non-gambling Showboat hotel opened its doors. Lately, however, there have been rumors that it may turn into a casino again. Due to restrictions placed on the hotel by Caesars Entertainment, the building cannot be made into a casino. Developers plan to break ground on a new building this year and convert some of the previous building into apartments. Sounds like it is going to be nice.

In the Fall of 2016, when I was there with my family for my mini birthday vacation, I decided to visit the “new” Showboat. Going in from the entrance on the Boardwalk has a much different feel than it did when it was the Mardi Gras casino. The foyer is bare, very few tourists stay there, and it had a weird smell (think sour milk). Going into where the casino used to also gives off weird vibes. Heavy, canvas curtain adorned with images of vintage postcards of Atlantic City cover the openings to the former casino floor. This rebel—well, she moves the canvas curtains to see what was behind them. Bareness. Darkness. Sadness. I remember being on that casino floor when I was a newly-turned 21-year-old. I needed to get a special wristband because the security guards thought I was a teenager. That spot where I went to get the wristband is gone. So are all the fancy machines that once contributed to the liveliness of the hotel. All that’s left are the memories of what once was. But memories are good (of course, pictures are better!). Memories will stay with us and travel with us for eternity. Those amazing memories and feelings play a role in our lives. They shape us into who were are at this present moment. Although I am saddened by the change the Showboat has gone through, I am glad that I was a part of it at a moment in time.

I have included numerous pictures I have taken over the years—when the Showboat was lively and fun and the present-day Showboat. Some of the earlier pictures are not of the best quality because they were taken when I was younger and didn’t have the camera equipment or skills I have today. However, looking at these pictures—good quality or not—I can still remember how it felt to be there at that moment. I hope you enjoy taking a trip down memory lane and revisiting the past with me.


Thanks for reading.

XO Gina



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