The Flamingo Resort was, once upon a time, a thriving and fabulous part of Tampa Bay’s LGBTQ+ scene and nightlife. According to the resort manager, it was once the single largest LGBTQ+ resort in all of Florida. It was a haven for people of all stripes to come together, in a venue that evoked 1970s Vegas motels right here in Downtown St Petersburg. Lots of bright colors and art-deco flourishes made the place feel like you had stepped out of a time machine. It had 6 bars, a full nightclub, shopping, food, and of course plenty of rooms. It seemed somehow immune to demolition.
I am speaking in the past tense, because in the fall of 2019, we demolished the entire facility.
On July 31st, 2019, the Flamingo Resort in St. Petersburg opened its doors for the very last time. As fall rolled in, AAA Service Company moved onto the site, and demolition began in early October.
We began by preparing the job site. On the first day of proper demolition, we systematically stripped every room of its furniture and decorations. This was all collected in large heaps on the edges of the parking lot, where our grappler truck could sneak in and grab it without blocking the real work that was about to begin.
On day two, the true demolition work began. Our excavator operators got right to work on the south wing of the hotel. Starting from the far end and working towards the center, they unceremoniously pulled the balconies from the rooms. They smashed the roof into the second-story rooms, and then collapsed the second story into the first. When one set of rooms was no more than a pile of dust and rubble, they moved to the next. And then the next.
Soon, it came time to demolish the famous kidney-shaped pool. The staff emptied the pool when the resort closed many months ago. So our crew got straight to work breaking down the top of the pool, as well as the concrete surface of the entire pool area. A second team removed the concrete and dumped cheap fill dirt into the void it left behind.
As we erased each distinctive feature and landmark, we flattened and compacted the space it had once occupied. As the building receded and the parking lot asphalt disappeared, it became harder and harder to imagine the hotel that once stood. Eventually the only thing left standing was the front office, until one day even that was no more.
The Flamingo Will Rise Again
The Flamingo Resort may be gone, but its spirit lives on – and is currently seeking a new home. Just as the Flamingo was the spiritual successor to the Suncoast Resort that closed in 2007, there will be another nightclub to fill the needs of the Tampa Bay LGBTQ+ scene, maybe someday soon. From The Tampa Bay Times:
“Manager Jon Jusino announced that the resort was closing in a Facebook live video [on July 22nd]. Jusino insisted that the Flamingo’s owners will seek to purchase a new location elsewhere in the city to host a similar gay nightclub in the future, but was unable to provide specifics.
‘They would be looking for a property that’s very similar to this, and one that we can re-establish the Flamingo and the entertainment and everything we enjoy here,’ Jusino said.”
The rubble of the Flamingo Resort lives on in thousands of building and construction projects across Florida as well. Weintraub Recycling, our sister company specializing in recycled construction materials, took ownership of the cinderblocks, the scrap metal, the asphalt of the parking lot, and the concrete from the pool, the foundations, and more. These are all broken down, sorted, and crushed into materials for anything from erosion control to drainage to road base.
And while it is sad to see a community landmark disappear, it will be replaced by housing developments, which will be filled with more memories and more lives. People will grow attached to – and even sentimental about – the new building in time, until one day it too will be removed. And so the circle of life continues.