ATLANTIC CITY — Developers hope to open a 31-story hotel and year-round waterpark within two years in the resort’s Marina District, they said.
Tom Sherwood will build the $123 million complex on land he bought for $5.2 million five years ago at Huron Avenue and Marina Boulevard across Atlantic City from his 55,000-foot compound anchored by Diving Horse Gentleman’s Club on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard that his children now run.
Renderings show the 350-feet-tall, 183-room hotel built to look like a ship’s sail. Meant to be a gateway to the resort’s Marina District, the design not only highlights the neighborhood’s nautical theme but also resembles the distinctive Burj Al Arab, a luxury resort that reaches nearly three times as high and sits on its own artificial island in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The site will consist of 5 acres of outdoor waterpark and 45,000 square feet of of indoor water park, with ride names that keep with the Diving Horse theme, said Sherwood and architect Rick Ragan.
Ragan expects the operation to draw more than 500,000 visitors every year after it opens in 2014.
When asked about the waterpark’s departure from the adult-oriented businesses two miles away, Sherwood said he’s “here to make money and love(s) Atlantic City.”
Sherwood and his brother and business partner Tim Behr presented the sketches Wednesday alongside part of their design team, Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford and Councilmen Frank Gilliam and Steve Moore during a press conference inside the mayor’s City Hall offices.
“I am always as the mayor besieged with questions about what’s happening in Atlantic City, what’s new coming down the pipe. In that vein ... this is it,” Langford said.
“I think it’s an exciting project. They are as anxious as we are for the public to know that they’re serious and that it’s coming. So when they decided they wanted to make this public now, I said, ‘Let’s have at it, let’s have the press conference and announce something else positive,’” he said.
Meanwhile, across town at the East Coast Gaming Congress at Revel, a panel of marketing executives cited the need for more nongaming attractions in the resort. That sentiment is so strong that the $20 million “Do AC!” campaign launched last month purposely excluded references to gambling, they said during Wednesday’s discussion.
Sherwood and his team said they are consulting on the design and management of the waterpark with the nation’s “top four” operators, but declined to name them.
Sherwood originally intended to build a casino in the Marina District. It would have been the fourth gambling property to open in that area, already home to the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and Harrah’s Casino Resort.
Sherwood, a 65-year-old from Philadelphia, said he spent summers during his childhood shining shoes on the Boardwalk and watching the diving horse that once made the Steel pier famous.
The concept introduced Wednesday better fits with the city since the local gambling market declined and the push began to add family attractions began, Sherwood said.
The land sits outside the Atlantic City Tourism District, where the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority now handles planning and development. That means municipal officials will handle planning and approvals for the Diving Horse Resort and Water Park.
Sherwood and his team could not say when they will present the project to the City Planning Board.
But they hope the waterpark will offer the “something more” visitors report they want in surveys such as those compiled by the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors’ Authority.
The hotel will not have any connection in appearance or otherwise to the Diving Horse club that opened last summer, Sherwood said.
Sherwood developed the club to introduce a higher-end experience he said was lacking in Atlantic City. Overlooked by a steakhouse, the club features dancers wearing burlesque-style lingerie and connects to nightclub Luxx Lounge, gay bar The Brass Rail, and the Saints and Sinners erotic couples’ club.
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