ATLANTIC CITY — When people drive to the new Revel casino, they likely will see the wavy, shimmery facade or the glowing ball atop it.
What they won’t see are the behind-the-scenes improvements that made the $2.4 billion property come to life. These have been coming for years, making the beachfront casino ready for prime time.
Most obvious is the District Energy Center at the corner of South Metropolitan and Oriental avenues, across the street from the casino. That seven-story gray and black cube, incongruously wedged into an otherwise residential block, is the casino’s utility nerve center.
The $160 million center went online in March to provide heat and hot water. It is owned by Energenic, a partnership between DCO Energy of Mays Landing and Marina Energy, a South Jersey Industries subsidiary.
At the moment, Revel and the restaurants inside are the only customers of the facility. But Steve Poniatowicz, an Energenic executive vice president, said it could serve others. It is designed for Revel’s original two-tower design; with only one tower in the current working plan, the plant has extra capacity.
The plant features four 1,200-horsepower boilers that can use as many as 200 million BTUs of natural gas in an hour, Poniatowicz said, and about 200 billion BTUs in a year. One BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is the amount of energy needed to raise a pound of water from 39 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Environmental Protection Agency says a typical household uses between 54 and 108 million BTUs in a year.
The center also uses six 2,500-tonne chillers to provide cold water for Revel’s air-conditioning system. Once warmed in the casino, the water returns to the plant to be compressed, cooled and cycled back inside.
The chillers are electric, powered by three 23,000-volt feeds from Atlantic City Electric into the center. The feeds also power the rest of the casino, which likely will use between 10 megawatts and 11 megawatts at peak, Poniatowicz said.
A typical home uses a little less than 13 megawatt hours of electricity in a year, according to the EPA.
New pipes feed Revel
Other utilities said their routine upgrades helped prepare for the casino, but the broader region will also benefit.
Chuck Dippo, vice president for engineering services at South Jersey Gas, said several projects added capacity and flexibility to the system. One was 2.5 miles of new 24-inch pipeline in Egg Harbor Township laid along Washington Avenue, Fire Road and across the Atlantic City Expressway in late 2011. A second was about 2 miles of 12-inch pipe from Huron Avenue in the Marina District along Absecon Boulevard.
“Without some of these reinforcements happening, we would not have been in the position to add Revel and other loads that may come along in the future,” Dippo said.
The company also worked with other crews closer to the site, when other utilities were installed and roadways widened.
Two years ago, the Atlantic City Municipal Utilities Authority finished renovations to its water-treatment works, giving it more capacity, Executive Director Neil Goldfine said.
The utility placed larger water mains in the ground between Revel and Trump Taj Mahal and the Uptown Complex School several blocks north of Revel. It also connected the mains on Atlantic and Pacific avenues with new Connecticut Avenue pipes.
But since money is not the only thing casino patrons leave behind, the Atlantic City Sewerage Co. also improved its lines, Louis Walters said.
Walters, president of the privately held, regulated utility, said it spent $7 million on the pipes that carry waste underneath the bay to the Atlantic County Utility Authority’s Wastewater Facility.
The company replaced 85-year-old mains with new high-density plastic pipes with an estimated 125-year lifespan. The pipes carry about 95 percent of the city’s sewage flow under pressure from near the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa to the treatment center. The company completed the project in December.
Three years ago, the company spent about $5 million to install a new trunk line for the entire South Inlet and replace two of the three sewer pipes at Baltic Avenue. The new 36-inch pipe, planned for about 10 years, is sized for future area development.
Tom Foley, the city’s director of emergency management, said the city likely would add one ambulance and crew to the five or six typically on call. The city has as many as 26 ambulances available for events such as last year’s Atlantic City Airshow.
The city also hired six new police dispatchers, who should finish their eight-week training by the end of April, boosting that office’s total to 33.
The new policing needs are uncertain, Tourism District Commander Tom Gilbert said. Deployments are based on statistical analysis, he said, and there is now no information on which to base those.
The Atlantic City Police Department will need to increase the number of patrols in District 4, generally east of Maryland Avenue, Deputy Chief Henry White said. That part of the city includes Revel as well as the Boardwalk between Resorts and New Hampshire Avenue. But few specifics are known beyond that.
Near-daily meetings probably will be necessary at first to assess the need, Capt. Eric Dooley said.
Police are prepared for the opening weekend, said Capt. Glenn Abrams, the patrol commander.
“We’re going to really have to judge on the crowds that show up,” he said.
Overtime — which has been mostly done away with — likely will be involved, White said.
“One thing we don’t want to do — and we’re not going to do — is pull away from any patrols in the neighborhoods,” he said. “We have 327 officers, so we have the resources to reassess and redeploy. We’re going to utilize that.
Police Lt. Greg Stites said specifics for special police details have not been finalized but are expected soon.
Casinos pay $73 per hour to the city’s Police Department to facilitate off-duty officers providing security at nightclubs and similar places. The officer receives $50 per hour and the city gets the rest.
The city’s Fire Department also is finalizing its incident plans, Chief Dennis Brooks said. The department has specific operational guidelines for each of the casinos preplanned and available in a special Fire Command Center.
That room is situated in different places depending on the casino, but is generally quickly available. Inside is access to the building’s alarms, structural information and a host of security personnel. The pre-plans specify where each engine or ladder company would be placed in case of a major incident. That and security cameras give first-responders a plethora of information.
No new firefighters are needed because of Revel, he said. “We have enough firefighters in our pocket, it’s deep enough, that we can handle it.”
Brooks was confident his department could handle whatever happens.
“This is not the first time we’ve opened a casino up,” he said. “Our part of it is, we got to know where we’re going to be going and who we are going to be talking to.”
Staff writer Lynda Cohen contributed to this report.
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