It wasn't a matter of if but when the 60-year-old Riviera casino-hotel on the Las Vegas Strip would come crashing down. Its new owner voted Tuesday to do it sooner rather than later.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority decided to demolish the structure and pave over the land rather than let it sit vacant for years while the agency seeks the money needed to expand its convention center to the site.
The authority bought the Riviera for $182.5 million plus $8.5 million in transaction costs in February. It expects to spend $2.3 billion to expand the Las Vegas Convention Center to the Las Vegas Strip.
Any demolition wouldn't happen for at least six months. How the building will be demolished hasn't been decided, but the agency's contractor, Terry Miller with Cordell Corp., told the board he expects it will require an implosion as well as tearing it down.
Board member and Las Vegas Councilman Steve Ross called the demolition a "golden opportunity" to raffle off an opportunity to push the button to implode the casino.
The authority's eight board members in attendance approved a committee's earlier recommendation.
The board was told by a contractor leading the expansion project that it could cost $42 million to demolish the casino and replace the 26-acre site with a paved lot for temporary outside exhibit space until it can build convention space that would expand its footprint from 3.1 million square feet to 5 million square feet.
The exact cost of the demolition won't be known until the agency seeks bids for the work.
"$42 million is a placeholder," said board member Chuck Bowling, president and chief operating officer of Mandalay Bay.
Rossi Ralenkotter, the authority's president and CEO, said the expansion is among efforts needed to fend off other destinations interested in peeling away some of Vegas' convention business.
"The fact is, there's a destination arms race all around us," he said.
The unsupported alternative proposed spending about $5 million to $10 million annually for at least a few years for upkeep on the vacant building. The authority's committee was told the total cost could be $16 million without accounting for eventual demolition costs, raising the possible price to $48 million.
Just one person at the meeting voiced opposition to tearing down the Riviera.
Kelden Engel, 17, said he had to try when he offered his public comments in rhyming rap verses, wearing a screen-printed shirt he made that said "Save the Riviera."
"I don't mean to put the authority on the spot, but the last thing Vegas needs is another dirt lot," he said. He noted the proposed expanded convention center looked kind of hip. "But I can assure you, it has no place on the Strip."