Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 | 9:52 a.m.
The building was never known for its cooperation.
From when it opened in 1970 as the Royal Inn to its days as the Paddlewheel, Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Hotel, WWF hotel-casino and Greek Isles, nothing ever worked out as planned at the old Clarion Hotel Casino.
Monday night and early this morning brought more of the same from the hotel just west of Piero’s on Convention Center Drive. Doomed for implosion around 3 a.m., the Clarion is still not totally destroyed.
The elevator tower on the west side of the building, the strongest component of the structure, stood tall after owner Lorenzo Doumani hit a ceremonial plunger to set off the explosives designed to drop the old hotel.
“Are you kidding me?” Doumani said shortly after the dust settled. “We’ve had the Hacienda, Dunes, Stardust, Frontier all go ‘whooomp!’ But not the old Debbie Reynolds.”
The implosion was delayed by about an hour as a few pedestrians who had made their way inside the blast zone were shooed away. The event was witnessed by a few dozen invited guests watching from the Las Vegas Convention Center’s Gold parking lot across the street to the north of the Clarion.
As Doumani noted, the Clarion was to be the 13th implosion in Las Vegas, and maybe that number proved unlucky. It was the first implosion since 1957 for Controlled Demolition Inc. that did not go as planned.
In the history of Las Vegas implosions, buildings have toppled after a few moments where it seemed they would withstand the explosives designed to bring them down. In 1995, the Landmark famously came down in two pieces after being sliced in half.
The Sands stood momentarily, as if defiantly, before falling in 1996. But the Clarion is the first to leave a piece standing that was originally planned for demolition.
“It’s ‘The Terminator’ of hotels,” Doumani joked. “I’ll be back!”
As it was explained onsite, the elevator shaft was held in place as debris fell on either side, locking or “chocking” the column in place. As video shows, the piece did initially drop slightly when the explosives were set off, and began tilting to the west, but stopped in place as the rest of the structure dropped to the ground in a giant plume of dust and dirt.
A crane was being sent back to the site today, with the plan being that the tower would be knocked down before the end of the day. The tower remains in the original footprint, and traffic west of Debbie Reynolds Drive to the Strip remained closed this morning as crews continued work.
As officials with the demolition company emphasized, all of the 4,000-plus explosives installed in the building were detonated, in sequence, as planned. The building simply wouldn’t fall as planned.
“The elevator core is the strongest part of any building, including this one,” Doumani said. “This place might not have done well, but it won’t be done in. At least not so easily.”