Gigantic cranes and earthmovers scoop up piles of sand in a choreographed convoy of heavy-construction equipment.
Massive boulders are stacked high, looking like gray mountains dotting the shoreline.
A red sign erected at the entrance to the beach warns ominously: “Danger. Keep out. Construction site.”
This is the scene in front of Atlantic City’s newest casino. In effect, the upscale, beach-themed Revel has had no beach this summer.
“It certainly is disappointing to our guests,” acknowledged Kevin DeSanctis, Revel’s chief executive officer. “Clearly, the beach is a focal point of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
DeSanctis, though, remains patient. He said that once the project is done, the $2.4 billion Revel megaresort will have a wide, beautiful beachfront that is protected from erosion.
Fortunately for Revel, it is expected to finally get its beach in August. DeSanctis was under the impression it will be the first week of August, but the state agency in charge of the project says the completion date is Aug. 15.
“Revel has a new major facility that is very important to the city of Atlantic City. They are anxious to get done. We are, too,” said Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
Ragonese, however, stressed that the DEP is not going to rush the job just for the sake of getting it finished.
“We’re going to make sure the project is done properly,” he said.
The work is part of an $8.4 million project along a half-mile stretch of beach from the northern tip of Absecon Island south to Delaware Avenue. After construction is completed, stone jetties protruding 300 feet into the ocean in front of Revel at Massachusetts and Vermont avenues will be twice as long and twice as strong.
The jetties are designed to slow down the wave energy and help save the freshly replenished beaches from being swept away during storms, Ragonese explained.
“The last thing we need is to see this beach washed away,” he said.
Revel also has had a hand in the beach-replenishment effort. The company brought in its own experts to help government agencies devise ways to build up the shoreline.
One solution was to create an underwater “sill” that connects the seaward tip of the Massachusetts Avenue jetty with Garden Pier at New Jersey Avenue about 600 or 700 feet away. The sill will act like a dam to prevent the waves and their undertow from taking the beach sand out to sea.
The big boulders now piled high on the beach will be used to build the sill and strengthen the jetties, said Larry Hajna, another DEP spokesman.
Work is being done in sections along the beachfront. The beach directly in front of Revel — the part scheduled to be finished in August — stretches from the Garden Pier to Massachusetts Avenue. But construction from Massachusetts to Vermont avenues won’t be done until after summer, Ragonese noted.
The DEP work piggybacks on a separate, $18 million government project that has replenished the sand on beaches from Atlantic City to Ventnor. In front of Revel, for instance, a newly created thick layer of sand stretches 350 feet from the casino to the ocean, compared with just 50 to 100 feet when the beach was badly eroded before.
But for now, the beach is crowded with cranes and earthmovers — not tourists frolicking in the surf.
Ray Valentine, a Revel customer, gazed out at the construction work Saturday and talked of the advantages of enhancing the beachfront. He said bigger, more beautiful beaches will attract more tourists, especially the families who may have shied away from Atlantic City in the past.
Valentine, 63, of Clifton, Passaic County, envisions Atlantic City’s beachfront taking on more of a Miami-like feel. He said once the work in front of Revel is done, the beaches should be crowded with sunbathers as well as vendors offering waterfront fun, such as parasailing and personal-watercraft rides.
“This is the Vegas of the East,” Valentine said. “At no other casino place do you have this resource — the beaches and the ocean.”
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