GARY — The Majestic Star Hotel, opened in 1998 by Donald Trump's casino company to draw more visitors to Buffington Harbor, was permanently closed June 30 by its current owner, Spectacle Entertainment.
Jahnae Erpenbach, Spectacle executive vice president of operations and Majestic Star Casino general manager, said the decision to close the hotel was based on its continually declining occupancy and the need for immediate, large-scale renovations to bring it up to Spectacle's standards.
Moreover, with the Majestic Star casinos slated to relocate in the next few years to a new, land-based facility adjacent to the Borman Expressway at Burr Street, Erpenbach said instead of renovating the hotel it made more sense to improve the amenities at the current Majestic riverboats.
"Closing the hotel will allow us to invest all of our available funds to enhance the existing casinos," Erpenbach said.
Thirty Majestic employees lost their jobs due to the hotel closure, though Erpenbach noted that the casino has many open positions for which they can apply.
The 300-room, $17 million hotel employed about 400 people when it opened in 1998 amid increased competition between the Trump Casino and the Majestic Star, both based at Buffington Harbor, and then-new casinos in Hammond, East Chicago and Michigan City.
Over the years, the hotel hosted innumerable business meetings, class reunions and even the contestants in the Trump-owned Miss USA Pageant in 2001 and 2002 when the competition was held at Gary's Genesis Convention Center.
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Following a Trump bankruptcy, Majestic Star purchased the Trump Casino in 2005 and branded both boats and the hotel under its name. Spectacle completed its acquisition of Majestic Star in March.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she recognized Spectacle's need to close the hotel in connection with its upcoming relocation, which includes plans for a new hotel in a more convenient location.
Eliminating the Majestic hotel also is in keeping with the city's goal to redevelop Buffington Harbor as an intermodal transit hub, she said.
"This is an industrial footprint," Freeman-Wilson said. "In knowing what we know now about the land, and about the promise of logistics and other things that are suited for the area, I can understand why Majestic has made the decision."
Erpenbach said that in the months ahead, Majestic Star is planning to launch new slot machines, table games and sports wagering, while continuing to focus on improving the player experience, guest services and casino cleanliness.
Majestic also is planning to revive its soaring original entrance to make valet service more convenient and improve guest access to the casino and other non-gaming amenities.
"Bringing back the popular porte-cochere entrance will provide a beautifully lighted area for our valet services, a warm welcome for guests upon arrival, and direct access to the Harbor View Buffet and Lakeshore Lounge," Erpenbach said.