Planned new entertainment at Steel Pier as well as images of the past are creating the new culture for the Atlantic City icon.
The newest expansion at the pier, which opens for the 2013 season Saturday, targets having a portion of the landmark open to visitors yearround, said Anthony Catanoso, the pier owner and president.
The first phase of a $100 million renovation package being completed this year includes a 200-foot ferris wheel with climate-controlled cabins to be installed on an expanded portion of the pier, Catanoso said. With the ride, expected by fall, allowing year-round operation, the front of the pier will be able to stay open past the summer season.
Also part of the first phase of the renovation will be a remodeling of the entrance, renovations to the bar at the front of the pier, and a widening of the pier south toward Resorts, Catanoso said. New rides are expected to arrive in mid-April and be operational by May 1, he said.
One of the newest attractions is The Mix, a ride that spins like a propeller and swings riders out over the ocean.
Pier spokeswoman Sharon Franz said that though there has been a lot of rain and some snow recently, the opening day of the pier will go forward as planned. The weather did interfere with the preparation schedule, but late into Friday the pier employees were working to ensure no problems with opening day.
“We are going to get it done,” she said.
Building on its former appeal, the Steel Pier promises a mix of vintage and contemporary experiences for visitors, including a montage of original postcards showing Atlantic City and the Steel Pier, as well as tickets from the pier and small DO AC stickers, all laminated to create the counter top of the bar.
The 250 postcards were bought from Princeton Antiques, a shop that has been in the city since 1966.
Owner Bob Ruffolo, of Atlantic City, said he received the call from Catanoso, a returning customer, about a month ago.
Ruffolo arrived with two boxes filled with about 4,000 original postcards, and after half an hour Catanoso had the 250 he needed, Ruffolo said.
Despite the nostalgic images of the pier in its former glory, Ruffolo said “The Steel Pier will never be what it was.”
During the 1930s the then 2,000-foot-long pier had entertainment fitting for the culture at the time. Movies were screened, with props and costumes used in the film put on display outside the theater, Ruffolo said. Popular musicians were highlighted events, and seeing them was a treat.
“Now you can just go on the Internet,” he said.
The pier reached it’s historic size by constantly expanding to fit the demand of the tourist population, Ruffolo said. “It was the showplace of the nation.”
Though now only spanning half of its original length, the 1,000 foot amusement park will continue expanding its width, keeping up tradition of frequent expansions from its past.
Due to environmental laws, it will never be allowed to span 2,000 feet away from the shore, Ruffolo said.
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