On April 27, 2007, more than 10 years after its furnaces stopped churning, the Bethlehem Steel Plant is set for major renovation. The plant will be changed into a casino complex worth $600 million owned and operated by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, the owner of the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas.
Jerry Werkheiser, who has worked at the plant for about 2 decades and has led plant tours at the closed plant, commented that it would be disturbing to lose the plant. The demolition of the plant will not start until the first week of June.
Workers must first move important items from the site, like the 60-foot-long, 187,000-pound gun from the USS Mississippi, a warship that took part in World War II. The contractor of the project, the Brandenburg Industrial Service Corporation, will demolish 11 buildings, such as the locomotive shop and the foundry for the steel items.
Though historians in the area grieve over the loss of the plant, the Sands Casino plans to restore over 20 buildings, like the 1,500 foot long machine shop. The facility will feature a hotel, restaurant, shops, entertainment venue and a slots casino. Historian Lance Metz said that some of the important buildings will be saved, but unfortunately some will have to be demolished.
Bethlehem Mayor, John Callahan, commented that the casino will help revitalize the plant. Sands also plans to operate a casino that will feature 3,000 slot machines by the end of next year, 300 hotel rooms and a 50,000 sq ft convention facility after 3 months and an additional 2,000 slot machines by 2009.