Gillian's Funland of Sea Isle City, a 5-year-old amusement park that local officials hoped would attract families to the resort, is pulling out of Sea Isle City.
Jay Gillian, who owns the park and the much larger Gillian's Wonderland Pier in Ocean City, said Hurricane Sandy-related damage and other factors prompted the closing in Sea Isle City.
Gillian, who is also the mayor of Ocean City, said the park along Sea Isle's bay sustained "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in damage, and the business struggled to open partially by July 4 last year.
"We just had to replace so many rides and we just couldn't come back. It was like starting a whole new amusement park again," Gillian said. "We decided after five years to close it down and focus on Ocean City."
The closing comes as a blow to Sea Isle City, which courted amusement parks for years to fill a void left by Fun City, a landmark that closed in 2000 and was sold to developers.
Gillian's Funland was a colorful, prominent centerpiece located off 42nd Place and parallel to the main entranceway into town.
The Ocean City-based amusement park company spent about $2.5 million to build the park in 2009.
Among the hurdles in trying to bring an amusement park to the barrier island was the high cost of real estate.
But Gillian's and Sea Isle City reached a public-private partnership to lease city-owned land.
Sea Isle City received 10 percent of the park's revenues each year. In the first three years, park revenues reached about $390,000 in 2009, $420,000 in 2010 and $447,000 in 2011, according to previously provided figures. Revenues from the last two years were not immediately available on Friday.
Apart from weather and storm issues, the Sea Isle City amusement park faced other obstacles.
Gillian noted the difference in parks in Sea Isle City and Ocean City, including how promotions that proved successful for years in Ocean City did not necessarily work in Sea Isle City.
Gillian's Funland was also smaller, with rides intended for young children.
Mary Tighe, Sea Isle City Council president, said the amusement park struggled to attract families with older children.
"I think with the age group he was targeting, the place was wonderful but I think what was happening is parents that have kids that are 10, 11, 12, 13, that like the bigger rides tend to have smaller kids too. And those kids weren't getting enough out of our park and they wanted to go to Wildwood and Ocean City," she said.
"It was a big investment for him (Gillian). I think he did a wonderful job in how it looked and all the advertising he did. We worked well together to get it open, but each year he struggled a little," Tighe said.
Tighe said the city plans to use that area for parking this summer.
She would like to find another use for that prominent area, but acknowledges another amusement park is not in the cards.
"I think that was the best chance," she said. "Mr. Gillian runs a top-rate amusement park in Ocean City and obviously knows how to make things work."
Meanwhile, Gillian's Wonderland Pier in Ocean City will open as usual in April. Tickets purchased at the Sea Isle City park will be accepted in Ocean City, Gillian said.
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