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November 21, 2017

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Final Riviera tower imploded, closing chapter of Las Vegas history

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Steve Marcus

The Riviera’s Monte Carlo tower, right, and adjacent buildings are imploded Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority plans to use the property for a Las Vegas Convention Center expansion.

Riviera Is History

Gino Catania, left, and his cousin Vinny Catania wait on a barrier for the implosion of the remaining tower of the Riviera Hotel & Casino, far left, along with the property's remaining structures early Tuesday August 16, 2016 in Las Vegas. Northstar Contracting Group held an employee event for the implosion in the adjoining Gold parking lot of the Las Vegas Convention Center. CREDIT: Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau Launch slideshow »

Boom. And it’s gone.

Blasts razed the final tower of the Riviera Hotel and Casino early Tuesday morning, putting to rest that piece of Las Vegas history. The tower fell at precisely 2:30 a.m.

Today’s implosion garnered less fanfare than the first one, which decimated the Riviera’s 24-story Monaco Tower amid a party-like atmosphere early June 14. A fireworks show and VIP area with live music, food, drinks and showgirls preceded that event.

By 1 a.m., a small crowd had gathered across from the Riviera on Las Vegas Boulevard. Most onlookers snapped final photos of the vintage Las Vegas casino all dressed up in unseen explosives that would soon level it.

"This is like history right here," said Dan Teson as he pointed to the dark, 17-story Monte Carlo tower and other remaining buildings. "It's got weird architecture compared to everything else on the Strip."

Teson spoke with a hint of nostalgia in his voice. He estimates he gambled craps or blackjack at the Riviera a dozen times over the years.

Visiting from Chicago, Teson and his friends decided to wander to the north end of the Strip when they heard about the impending implosion.

"We couldn't miss it," he said.

As the clock ticked closer to the detonation, security and Metro Police moved camera-toting spectators farther away from the soon-to-be-razed buildings. Meanwhile, workers at Slots A Fun hung a plastic tarp over an entryway — an apparent attempt to shield customers from the post-implosion dust storm.

"The dust might hang in the air for a while because it's not humid," said Jason Loizeaux, who works for Controlled Demolition Inc., the Maryland-based company orchestrating the implosion.

The pure spectacle of the event also brought out locals, some of whom remembered the Riviera in its heyday. Bill Lefever, 67, was one of those people — drawn by the history and "massive force" of the building's collapse.

He has witnessed a number of Las Vegas implosions, including the demise of the Sands and Landmark casinos.

"There's nothing like it," he said.

And now there's nothing left but rubble.

The felled towers make way for the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center in some capacity. Last year, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority bought the aging Riviera casino as part of its $1.4 billion plan to renovate and expand the existing convention center, located across Paradise Road.

The Riviera opened in 1955 on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip and featured headliners such as Liberace, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Dean Martin. It closed in May 2015.

Authorities allowed spectators to watch the implosion from publicly accessible sites outside the designated safety zone.

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