When 500 pounds of dynamite detonated early Sunday morning in Kansas City, the explosions obliterated a once-posh hotel — and with it, a piece of Kansas City organized crime history.
The demolition of the former Park Place Hotel in the business park near Front Street and Interstate 435 came off about 8 a.m. and had been planned by city officials for weeks. The property had become blighted since the hotel closed in 2016.
Years before that, in the 1970s, the hotel earned its place in Kansas City underworld lore when an FBI wiretap on a lobby payphone helped expose an elaborate scheme in which crime families in several U.S. cities — including Kansas City — siphoned money out of Las Vegas casinos they secretly controlled.
The episode became part of the historical underpinning for the 1995 mob movie "Casino."
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The hotel at 1601 N. Universal Ave. has undergone many transformations over the years and has operated under multiple names.
It opened in 1975 as the Breckenridge Inn. Three years later, builders added a second tower, and with 328 rooms, the hotel was the Kansas City area's 13th largest. It had a 9,500-square-foot ballroom and a 5-acre man-made lake and indoor/outdoor pool.
Many locals remember the hotel as the scene of wedding receptions and other events over the years.
The Breckenridge Inn's historic connection to organized crime came in 1978, when FBI agents followed Kansas City mob underboss Carl "Tuffy" DeLuna to the hotel, where he regularly used the public phones in the hotel lobby.
They learned that DeLuna was using the payphones to call Joseph Agosto, his contact at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, to discuss the crime family's interests in the casinos, as The Star reported at the time.
By using the phones in the hotel lobby, he hoped to avoid being overheard by the FBI, which was listening in on more than 30 tapped telephones and hidden microphones in Kansas City and Las Vegas.
As recounted by retired Kansas City police detective Gary Jenkins in his book "Leaving Vegas," the FBI even went so far as to have agents and secretaries stage a pool party at the Breckenridge Inn, to eavesdrop on DeLuna and get a warrant to tap the payphone he used.
Ultimately, the recordings from that wiretap and others became part of the evidence used to prosecute the bosses of the Kansas City mob, brothers Nick and Carl Civella, and 10 other mob figures indicted in 1981 in the Tropicana skimming operation.
Agosto, the man DeLuna called from the lobby of the Breckenridge Inn, was a star witness in the case.
In 1983, a Kansas City grand jury handed down the indictments in a related casino skimming investigation that took down leading gangsters in Chicago, Milwaukee and Cleveland.
The Breckenridge Inn later became the Park Place Hotel and then closed in 2016.
No longer operating, the property became an eyesore and attracted vagrants and looters. Several fires occurred in the buildings.
Kansas City officials had been working since last August to make the proper arrangements to demolish the former hotel, said John Baccala, a spokesman for the city's Neighborhoods and Housing Services department.
Kansas City-based Industrial Salvage & Wrecking drilled more than 2,200 holes into the structure. Controlled Demolition Inc. of Maryland set the explosive charges to bring the structure down.
On Sunday morning, when they set off the dynamite, 85 percent of the two eight-story towers of the building came down, leaving some remnants to be dealt with later.
Some onlookers gathered to watch the implosion.
"This really is a historic property," Baccala said. "It had reached a point where it had to come down. We look forward to the next chapter of this property, whatever that may be."
One obstacle in the property's future: It is still privately owned, and the city still hopes to recoup the demolition costs, Baccala said.
However, city officials have not been able to locate the owner.