WILDWOOD — Bathing suits and beach chairs are still packed away, but Easter’s arrival has become an unofficial starting point for the shore’s tourist season.
“It is the traditional opening of the Boardwalk,” said Patrick Rosenello, a Boardwalk business owner and executive director of the Boardwalk Special Improvement District.
Morey’s Piers, which operates three amusement piers and two waterparks in North Wildwood and Wildwood, will open for the season Saturday, and Rosenello said many Boardwalk businesses follow the schedule of the piers.
This weekend, Morey’s will open Mariner’s Landing Pier, but all of the piers and wateparks won’t be fully operational until mid-June. Other attractions, such as Splashzone Waterpark and the Boardwalk tram cars won’t be operating until Memorial Day weekend.
North of the Wildwoods, other amusement piers have also started their seasons, with both the Steel Pier, at 1000 Boardwalk in Atlantic City, and Gillian's Wonderland Pier, at Sixth street both open this weekend.
In the weeks prior to Easter, the Sea Serpent roller coaster in Wildwood was being tested and lightbulbs were being replaced in preparation for the season at Mariner’s Landing.
At the end of each summer, many rides and their components are stored away, but as the new season approaches they are rebuilt, tested, inspected, painted, cleaned or otherwise readied.
Six to eight weeks before Easter weekend many were being uncovered as state inspectors took on the job of inspecting the rides, and three weeks ago rides were being reassembled.
While no new roller coasters or thrill rides are opening this season, Morey’s Executive Vice President Jack Morey said the pier operator has made a series of big and small improvements, such as giving the Zoom Phloom a complete makeover and adding soft-serve ice cream.
Morey said his brother and company President Will Morey often says “little things are big,” and this year will see changes to a lot of little things.
“The accumulation of small things tends to build the culture,” Jack Morey said.
Culture is the focus at the pier’s new art project, which turns old, large shipping containers into art hubs.
According to Morey’s, re-use of the containers is a growing trend and the goal is to have working art studios where individual artists would be creating art in their specialized field.
Jack Morey said the project is an effort to add features that will appeal to the parents of the children that come to the piers each season.
“The children usually pull the parents along to the Boardwalk. We also want to take a shot at having parents pull the child to the Boardwalk,” he said.
Among the little things is a new mobile app called WildTrax that visitors will be able to use to track their progress on the rides such as how many times they ride, complete with leader boards.
Morey said other changes include new benches complete with history lessons that can be viewed using QR codes and new awnings and shelters from the sun.
“There’s $3 million of things guests won’t see,” he said.
Rosenello said the local business community is optimistic and expects a successful season, but the impact of Hurricane Sandy is still an unknown.
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