Atlantic City grapples with how family-friendly it should be

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — On a sunny Sunday in spring, three generations and three branches of Pam Moody’s family went to have fun at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier on the Ocean City Boardwalk.

“We’re actually hard-core Sea Isle people,” said Carrie Siewic, of Burlington County, one of Moody’s daughters. “But we drive here for the Boardwalk.”

With warm weather, the local shoreline fills up with people looking for family fun. And businesses have looked to feed that need with everything from roller coasters and Ferris wheels to pinball parlors and video arcades.

But family-friendly attractions can be difficult to attract, and maintain.

When Gillian’s Funland was in Sea Isle City for five summers, the extended Moody family went there. But Funland closed in 2013, and “we miss that thing,” Siewic said, after her mom, sister, daughter and nephew got off the merry-go-round in Ocean City. “We went all the time until it left. Then we came here.”

New Jersey tourism was a $43.4 billion industry last year, including more than $10 billion spent on recreation, according to a state report released earlier this year. Visitor spending was $6.7 billion in Atlantic County and about $6 billion in Cape May County last year, according to the report.

And coastal towns and businesses have tried to boost spending by families, something easier said than done.

For decades, at least since the first casino opened in Atlantic City in 1978, critics have said the city doesn’t have enough family draws.

“They have one pier. One place for kids on this whole Boardwalk,” said Scott Gardini, of South River, Middlesex County, after a Steel Pier visit with his son, Vincent, 4.

As a kid, he went to the Seaside Heights boards in Ocean County. Now, if he wants to treat his kids to a boardwalk, sometimes he drives right by Atlantic City to Wildwood. He was in Atlantic City with his in-laws last week but said the city should broaden its market with “the casinos… dropping like flies.”

And Atlantic City has tried, desperately at times, to answer those critics.

Steel Pier, which drew families for years with a mix of shticks that ran from rising stars to diving horses, closed after Resorts Casino Hotel opened in 1978. But it was reborn in the 1990s as an amusement pier full of rides and games.

Investors have proposed three water parks in recent years, including two in closed casinos, the Atlantic Club and Revel. So far, not one has shown any progress. And last week, City Council approved tax incentives for a planned “Polercoaster,” a vertical roller coaster at the long-vacant home of yet another former casino, the Sands.

Plus Tropicana Atlantic City, which once had and closed an indoor amusement park, Tivoli Pier, opened a new “Family Fun Station” a few summers ago with 50-plus games.

Back at Wonderland Pier, Brett and Shannon Balsley, of Linwood, watched their daughter, Olivia, 3, spin around happily on a kiddie ride.

The parents go to Atlantic City restaurants, concerts and shows “all the time,” Brett told The Press of Atlantic City (http://bit.ly/1WiXuT1 ). But if they want kicks for the kids, they head the other direction.

“Personally, I think Atlantic City should stay an adult town. … I don’t think you should try to compete with Ocean City and Wildwood. They’ve got the market cornered” on family fun, he said.

That take echoes something Steve Wynn, the casino magnate, told Time magazine in 2001 about family-friendly attractions for his latest Las Vegas resort.

“Not interested. I’m after Mom and Dad,” Wynn said.

“Destinations have to look at their strengths,” said Brian Tyrrell, a hospitality and tourism-management professor at Stockton University. “Look at the strength of Wildwood; it’s family-friendly. Ocean City, the same thing; there’s plenty for (families) to do.

“Certainly there are going to be families with young children who come to Atlantic City occasionally, and there are some things for them,” Tyrrell added. “But in general, that’s not a strength of Atlantic City. I would add, though, that you can still be family-friendly and just not look for families with young children.”

Take his parents. They’re big fans of Atlantic City shows and restaurants— and visiting them with their son.

And because there are different towns with different personalities all along the local coast, he supports marketing that cooperates instead of competing from town to town.

“There certainly is plenty to do in the region,” he said. “That’s one avenue you could take.”

Gillian’s Funland opened in Sea Isle in 2009, after local leaders worked for years to find an amusement park to replace Fun City. That small park ended a 30-year run right off the city’s beach in 2000; the owners sold the land to luxury-home developers.

Mayor Len Desiderio said he wanted a family-friendly draw because after Fun City closed, he got “literally thousands” of requests for something like it. The town finally found a taker when Jay Gillian, the third-generation owner of Ocean City’s main amusement park, agreed to build one on city-owned land just off the bay.

Gillian sunk an estimated $2.5 million into Funland to open it. But it closed for good less than five years later, in 2013, a summer when some rides never ran due to damage from Hurricane Sandy.

And while both city and operator blame Sandy for Funland’s demise, Gillian also said later that the place never took off the way he expected it to. Gillian told The Press in 2014 that “I probably should have left earlier. If it had been about the bottom line, I would have left after the first or second year, the third year at the latest.”

By phone this week, Gillian said the departed park keeps haunting his numbers. He’s paying off close to $1.5 million in debt— and expects to keep paying for another 10 years.

Desiderio praises the efforts in his town of Gillian, who is also Ocean City’s mayor.

“They’re very successful in Ocean City, and we were expecting something similar,” Desiderio said. “My thing was, they couldn’t bounce back” from the hurricane.

“It was the only amusement park being opened in the country (in 2009), and it just didn’t happen. It just didn’t work,” Desiderio added. “Amusements are … a tough, tough business.”

After 87 years of family experience, Gillian can’t disagree.

“Regulations are just unbelievable. Borrowing money is unbelievable. Mom-and-pop amusement parks like us … have so much going against us,” he said. “It’s a short season. We’re competing against schools and camps (for kids). We’re competing against Great Adventure, Disney … the superparks.” And his list goes on.

Still, family-friendly can be money-making, for all concerned.

Kathy Kaufman, of Washington Township, had two of her five grandchildren out last Sunday for a stroll on the Ocean City boards by Wonderland.

She said the town is perfect for families. When her two kids were young, she brought them here. Today, her kids bring their kids. To encourage that, she bought a home in Ocean City— because it’s her favorite family-friendly town.

And around the time she settled on the house, she made another major purchase.

“We just spent $1,400,” she said, “for (ride) tickets for all my grandchildren.”

ad-high_impact_4
News
Taxpayer-funded LVCVA boss negotiating exit pay despite criminal investigation
CEO Rossi Ralenkotter is the third-highest-paid public official in the state He has a pay and benefits package valued at $863,000 annually. Ralenkotter does not have an employment contract He announced his retirement in mid June, amid a scandal over airline gift cards LVCVA bought $90,000 in Southwest Airline gift cards between 2012 and 2017. Now auditors can’t account for more than $50,000 of the cards. Ralenkotter and his family used $16,207 in gift cards on 56 trips. Brig Lawson, the senior director of business partnerships, was responsible for buying and distributing the cards. He recently resigned. Ralenkotter's retirement settlement package could cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.
Bicyclists ride empty Interstate 11 before it opens Aug. 9
Southern Nevada Bicycle Coalition sponsored a 25-mile ride on the yet-to-be-opened Interstate 11 to highlight bicycle and motorist safety. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Paul Fronczak on his search for truth
Paul Fronczak, man mistaken for stolen baby in 1964, talks about the long search for his twin sister and the real Paul. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
1 dead after shooting near Sahara and the Strip in Las Vegas
Lt. Ray Spencer briefs the news media on a shooting at Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard South that left one dead. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Family remembers deceased mother
Family members of Adriann Gallegos remember her. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
2 in custody after chase
Two people were in custody after a chase involving Nevada Highway Patrol and Nye County Sheriff"s office deputies ended in southwest Las Vegas. Las Vegas police blocked off Rainbow Boulevard north of Tropicana Avenue around 1 a.m. Wednesday. Law enforcement personnel prepared to tow a black sedan as part of their investigation. It's not certain what precipitated the chase or where and when it started. Check back for updates.
Police Officer's Vehicle Was Taken During Shooting
Video from body worn camera footage released by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Wednesday shows an officer realizing his police vehicle has been taken during the chaos of the Route 91 shooting. It was later recovered at Sunrise hospital with the keys in the ignition and nothing removed. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
See Kitty Hawk’s flying car cruise over Lake Las Vegas
Kitty Hawk takes their flying car for a ride in the company’s hidden test facility in Lake Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Watch Las Vegas police wild pursuit through busy Las Vegas streets
An intense chase near Downtown Las Vegas ends after gunfire is exchanged as the suspect flees on busy streets and ends up near an elementary school. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Man shot strolling through park
A man was hospitalized early Tuesday morning after being shot while walking in a central Las Vegas park. Las Vegas police say the man and a woman were in Molasky Park just after midnight when the man was shot. The pair ran to a nearby supermarket where a security guard called for help. The man was hospitalized and as of 3 a.m. was in stable condition. Police have yet to identify the shooter and no suspects are in custody.
Police investigating shooting at east valley apartment complex
No one was injured late Monday night after someone fired shots at a vehicle at an east valley apartment complex. Police responded just before midnight to the Hamptons Apartments, 3070 S. Nellis Blvd. Someone fired shots at a vehicle that was leaving the complex, and struck the vehicle. Another bullet struck a nearby apartment building. The shooter or shooters remain at-large.
Suspect fires at Las Vegas police before officers shoot, end wild pursuit
An intense chase near Downtown Las Vegas ends after gunfire is exchanged as the suspect flees on busy streets and ends up near an elementary school. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Hundreds Attend Slides, Rides and Rock and Roll in North Las Vegas
Hundreds attended the inaugural slides, rides and rock and roll event in North Las Vegas Saturday. The event featured a car show, water slide park and live music. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
It's All Rainbows At The Center's New Cafe
The Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada (The Center) introduced its new coffeeshop, Little Rainbow Cafe, in June. Rainbows are everywhere, even in the lattes and toast, and employees wear t-shirts with the quote "Be a rainbow in someone's cloud." Owner Ben Sabouri said the concept is "built around the idea of, you know, be kind and treat everybody the same." (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Get a Rainbow Latte at the The Center's Little Rainbow Cafe
The Center, a community center for the LGBTQ community of Southern Nevada, has a new cafe. Little Rainbow Cafe serves up a pride-inspired signature "Rainbow Latte." (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pedestrian killed trying to cross Sahara
A pedestrian was killed Friday trying to cross Sahara Avenue near Maryland Parkway about 5 a.m. A sedan struck the pedestrian while the person was outside the crosswalk between Maryland Parkway and Pardee Place, according to Las Vegas police. Police also said the driver of the sedan remained at the site of the crash. The pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene. This is the 75th fatal crash that Las Vegas police have investigated in 2018.
Man shot multiple times
Las Vegas police are investigating after a man was shot multiple times early Friday morning. The shooting was called in about 3:20 a.m. at the Harbor Island Apartments, 370 E. Harmon Ave., near Koval Lane. The man was hospitalized and is expected to survive, but police are still searching for the shooter.
Former Military Police Corps Officer Celebrates 100th Birthday
Summerlin resident Gene Stephens, who served as a military policeman in WWII and escorted then-Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and President Roosevelt during the war, turned 100 on July 13, 2018. He credits his longevity to living a normal life, exercising regularly and eating three square meals a day. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Motorcyclist suffers serious injuries
A motorcycle rider was seriously injured Tuesday night after a crash on Charleston Boulevard. The crash was reported just before 10 p.m. near Durango Drive, according to Las Vegas police. The motorcyclist was hospitalized with unknown injuries but is expected to survive. Las Vegas police are investigating the cause of the accident.
CCSD Superintendent Jesus Jara Has Lunch With Students
New Clark County School District superintendent Jesus Jara continued his listening tour by having lunch with students at Red Rock Elementary School as part of the district's summer lunch program. In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, children under the age of 18 can find a free lunch at 104 different locations across the valley through the summer months. Jara highlighted the free program and the importance of eating healthy during his visit. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Timeline Leading Up to Scott Dozier's Execution
Scott Dozier is set to be executed by lethal injection the night of July 11 at Ely State Prison. Dozier was convicted of the April 2002 killing of 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller and was given the death penalty in Oct. 2007. In 2016 Dozier asked in a letter to District Judge Jennifer Togliatti requesting that he “be put to death.” A three-drug cocktail of midazolam, a sedative; the painkiller fentanyl; and cisatracurium, a paralytic, is expected to end his life. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Program Helps Mothers Battling Addiction
Jennifer Stanert has battled drug addiction on and off for the last 21 years. It caused her to lose custody of one of her children, Alec, after she gave birth while high. A new program at Dignity Health St. Rose Dominican Hospitals aims to connect mothers like Stanert with community resources and provide case management services while still pregnant to get connected to lactation and parenting classes, group peer support and education on neonatal abstinence syndrome. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Felon caught with guns in Mandalay Bay room 3 years before Las Vegas shooting
A felon was caught with guns in a Mandalay Bay hotel room three years before the October 1st mass shooting. Six weapons were found inside Kye Aaron Dunbar’s 24th floor room in November 2014. Four were semi-automatic. One was a scoped rifle pointing toward the Strip, according to court documents. Dunbar was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison for unlawful possession. The case just came to light in a lawsuit accusing Mandalay Bay of negligence in connection with the Oct. 1st shooting.
Illegal fireworks in the Las Vegas area garner complaints
Clark County received nearly 25,000 complaints over the Independence Day holiday on a new illegal fireworks site. Reports from the site led to at least 10 illegal fireworks busts across the valley overnight. As of Thursday morning, the county is still compiling the total number of citations issued.
House fire displaces 2 people
Two people were displaced after a house fire early Thursday morning. The fire, at 963 Temple Drive in east Las Vegas, was reported just after midnight, according to a battalion chief from the Clark County Fire Department. Crews from the North Las Vegas and Las Vegas fire departments also were called in to help. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
"Red White and Boom" July 4 Fireworks at the Stratosphere
Full video of the Fourth of July "Red White and Boom" fireworks show at the Stratosphere as seen from the 8th floor Elation Pool. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
July 4th fireworks at the Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite
July 4th fireworks at the Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite. (7-04-18) (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Crowds Enjoy Fireworks at the Stratosphere
Revelers enjoyed watching fireworks displays from the Stratosphere's 8th floor Elation pool on July 4. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pedestrian killed in Henderson
A pedestrian trying to cross St. Rose Parkway at Bermuda was hit by a vehicle on Tuesday night and later died. The crash was reported around 11:30 p.m. Las Vegas police responded initially, but handed over the investigation to Henderson police once it was determined the accident happened in their jurisdiction. Las Vegas police did respond to a report of a pedestrian being hit by a vehicle on the Strip. The person, who was hit by a BMW near Fashion Show mall, suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.
USPS owes $3.5 million for using Vegas Statue of Liberty on stamp
The United States Postal Service has been ordered to pay $3.5 million to a sculptor after using the Las Vegas replica of the Statue of Liberty in a stamp. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like