ATLANTIC CITY — The state has taken enough from this city, Gov. Chris Christie said Friday. Now, it’s time to give back.
With another drop in casino revenue announced earlier in the week, Christie spoke of a bright future for this gambling town as he visited the under-construction Revel casino.
“Atlantic City is extraordinarily important, not just to the region’s future but our state’s future,” the governor said, standing at the casino’s Sky Garden, a spacious area that will give customers a beautiful view of the Boardwalk and ocean, 114 feet below. “We want to make sure we bring this city to a new renaissance. It’s about bringing this city back to where it feels like a pre-eminent entertainment resort on the East Coast.”
Revel, the $2.6 billion resort set to open in May, will be a big part of that, he said. The state’s backing of the project — including a $200 million sales-tax break in February — proves that commitment.
“Previous administrations have used this area as a cash cow,” Christie said. “Well, we’ve milked this cow long enough, probably longer than we should have, and we didn’t leave enough of the milk here. I’ve changed that.”
Those changes have included the creation of a Tourism District within the city and mandating that Casino Reinvestment and Development Authority money stay here.
Revel also shows “a really solid private-sector investment that puts men and women back to work,” Christie said, flanked by construction workers.
Not only did the project give those workers jobs, but thousands more will be employed when the casino opens, he said.
The governor’s visit also allowed media and dignitaries a first look inside the massive property, where levels are measured not by what floor they will be, but how far above sea level they are, said D’Ann Glenn, executive director of Demand Planning and Integration for Revel.
Off the Sky Garden will be a huge pool that continues inside, so there can be swimming in all weather. Downstairs are three more pools and more than a dozen full-service cabanas with wood paneling, chandeliers, ceiling fans and television.
Inside, there will be several theaters, a 150,000-square-foot casino and two stories of restaurants in the area fronting the Boardwalk — all with windows.
“Wherever they could, they really tried to capitalize on the ocean view,” Glenn said.
“I think it’s going to be a game-changer,” said Jeffrey Vasser, executive director of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, who went on the tour.
He cited the diverse offerings, which include a 3½-story nightclub and 160,000 square feet of meeting space.
“I think it’s going to do the job it’s supposed to do, which is bring in new customers,” Vasser said. “It’s not just going to recycle the people who already come here.”
The tour gave Vasser a new respect for construction workers. “If I came in here, I would be like a deer in the headlights,” Vasser said of the project. “I admire all their work.”
Christie — who did not go on the tour — thanked the workers for what they’ve done, and for “hanging in there with New Jersey.”
There still is work to do, he said, including naming a leader for the CRDA, which is currently headed by interim Executive Director Susan Ney Thompson.
There is also cooperation to work on.
When asked about the noticeable absence of Mayor Lorenzo Langford — who has publicly criticized what he has categorized as a takeover — Christie joked that his charm and personality would win the mayor over.
But earlier in his speech, he touched on the topic with his signature unapologetic insistence.
”We expect the cooperation of the city of Atlantic City,” he said. “And we’re going to get that cooperation one way or another.”
He said there is a story to tell here, “and we’re going to tell it.”
Revel will help get that story out, Christie said, adding that he believes visitors will wind up bragging to their friends and families about what Atlantic City is doing.
“I will be here when this place opens,” he said. “I look forward to that day. It will signal the rebirth and the rebuilding of this city.”
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