ATLANTIC CITY — Shortly after 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sylvia Hegedus, 53, walked back inside Showboat for the first time since she closed out a 27 year cocktail waitress career on the casino's last day, Aug. 31, 2014. 
"I opened it, and I closed it," Hegedus said. "Now we're going to reopen it again. It feels like I'm coming home."

As the Springsteen song "Atlantic City" goes, Maybe everything that dies, some day comes back. 

In this case, it's the Showboat, shut down two years ago by its bankrupt parent company, Caesars Entertainment, despite being profitable, the second of the four casinos to close during Atlantic City's epic meltdown of 2014.

Now, it's being brought back to life as an 850-room hotel, without its casino, by Philadelphia and Atlantic City developer Bart Blatstein, making it the first of the four to find new life. The others were the Atlantic Club, Trump Plaza and Revel.

Tuesday afternoon, about 3,000 people lined up at a six hour job fair, many of them former Showboat employees, giving the long line that snaked back along the building all the way to Pacific Avenue the feel of a little reunion.

Initial interviews were held at the Total Rewards counter; second interviews were held in a former bar area.

Once inside, Hegedus instantly felt the pull of old memories. "It feels so weird," she said. "We lived in this place for 27 years."

The old casino floor minus its slot machines "looks small," she noted. And those marble floors, and domed stain glass ceilings - "How many people have i seen slip on these marble floors," she said. "I love these stain glass ceilings. If you crack your gum underneath them, there's an echo."

For many in line, it was indeed an echo of a former life, though for some, like Qynaja Carter, 20, of Atlantic City, said she was called back for a job as a buffet server, it would be the start of a career, not the resumption of one.

In front of them, four former kitchen and room service workers at Showboat - Yan Chew, Siu Z. Guo, Khai Ta and Yin Chu _ waited together. "We are really happy to be back here," said Yan Chew.

"Happy, happy, happy," said Guo. She worked 24 years in room service at Showboat, and hoped for a similar job now.

Jason Cain, 45, of Atlantic City, looking for work as a cook, was amazed at the turnout. "I didn't know there were this many people in the city," he said. "This is like the whole Atlantic City."

Eunice Puerto, 26, of Absecon, was looking for a job in human resources, having last worked at a staffing agency in Vineland. Both her parents lost jobs in casinos in Atlantic City, but she was still optimistic about the city's future. "I have faith," she said. "I'm happy about the fact that they're opening the doors to people who live and work the casinos. It's impressive. Hopefully a lot of people can get jobs."

 Lisa Augustine, regional director of operations of ACSB Hospitality, said she was looking to hire a general manager, a management team, housekeeping, front desk, restaurant workers, accounting, engineering and human resources for a total of about 200 employees. She said there will be two restaurants at the start. Those making the initial two cuts would return Wednesday, she said.

She said she was struck by the warmth of the former Showboat employees she encountered.
"there's such a kinship and camaraderie," she said.
Some employees may start as soon as Monday, she said, with an opening planned for July 4. She said the company would consider workers with prior experience in the building to be a valuable asset, but not necessarily a defining quality.

Augustine said the company had made arrangements with Local 68, representing operating engineers, but not as yet with other unions, including Local 54, which represents casino workers in Atlantic City.

Showboat employed 2,100 people at the time of its shuttering. It was also home to the House of Blues, and a former bowling alley. Blatstein would not say what he had planned for those spaces.

"It's a gargantuan task," he said Monday. He also runs the Playground, on the Pier at Caesars, which this season opened the WAV nightclub.

Blatstein is also negotiating with Atlantic City to develop the nearby Garden Pier, now home to the city's Art and Historical Museums, and a plot of land adjacent to Showboat previously used as volleyball courts and to host a professional volleyball tournament. He wants to turn that into an event and concert space.

Glenn Straub, owner of nearby Revel, another closed casino, has spoken of reopening on June 15, but has held no job fairs and has not named an operator.

He is in the process of installing a ropes course in the former valet parking area in front of Revel and has competed with Blatstein for the right to develop both the Garden Pier and the former volleyball courts.

Along with Trump Plaza and the Atlantic Club, Showboat and Revel were the four casinos that closed in 2014, ushering in an intensifying economic crisis for the resort city, which nearly defaulted on a bond payment in May. Gov. Christie signed a rescue package late last month that gives the city 150 days to come up with a plan for a balanced budget or face state takeover. The city is planning to auction off properties, including the iconic defunct Bader Field Municipal Airport.

Mayor Don Guardian stopped by the job fair and said the city was completely booked Memorial Day and so needed the extra rooms.

"Bart didn't have to open it up," he said. "I'm just thrilled. We're thrilled to be bringing it back." He noted that nearby attractions like the Steel Pier drew as much as 30 percent of their business from Showboat, which traditionally catered to families. "They'll be thrilled," he said.