Letter to the Editor >>
Let’s re-create Atlantic City during its pre-casino heyday, when families dressed to the nines as they strolled along the boardwalk. We could build a large theme park resembling our fair city in the early to mid-20th century, partially enclosed by a retractable dome over the central shopping area for colder months, beginning at the inlet and extending toward midtown.
Laid-off casino workers would get first crack at all decent-paying blue and white collar jobs, albeit unrelated to gaming, hopefully within a bargaining unit in addition to executive positions, created from this massive project. Private investors would need temporary incentives and firm assurances from state and local politicians not to allow the theme park to fail.
State and federal governments could float bonds with the appropriate guarantees to secure additional funding if necessary.
We would need to hire reliable construction companies, the best and brightest engineers and architects, consult with historians, train folks dressed to fit the era to act as guides, secure the best managers we could find to operate hotels resembling say the Breakers, Marlborough-Blenheim, and Traymore, as well as restaurants consistent with our theme, solicit bygone-era nightclubs like the 500 Club and Club Harlem and family-oriented entertainers, have bands, dancers and other stage performers entertain all day and night.
Captain Starn’s pleasure boats, decorated with memorabilia from Atlantic City’s golden days, could offer mini-excursions, entertainment, and fine seafood in warmer weather.
We would need to attract tourists from near and far, thus a shuttle service from Atlantic City International Airport would be necessary.
Obviously, no casinos would be allowed within the pre-casino theme park; however, visitors could certainly venture forth and frequent the rest of Atlantic City, enhancing the revenue stream for casinos, entertainment facilities, restaurants and stores. Offering and promoting luxurious nostalgia – modern conveniences within an authentic historical setting – could turn things around for Atlantic City, which is no longer able to sustain itself primarily on casino hotel revenue.
This theme park concept is one extraordinary, no doubt expensive, yet serious commitment intended to save Atlantic City from deterioration. In the long term, if properly built, promoted and operated, it should be quite profitable. Our resilient town underwent a successful makeover, saving it from oblivion, when Resorts opened. We were the only game in town, a monopoly for gaming along the Eastern Seaboard.
That is no longer true, so we must once again think big, think strategically, and do what is needed. We’ve done it before; we can surely do it again.