Three of the amusement piers in our area have added new rides and attractions this year. Here’s what to look for at Ocean City’s Playland, Atlantic City’s Steel Pier and Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Waterparks in Wildwood:
Playland is taking on the most ambitious changes this season with four new rides, three of which are roller coasters. Starting June 18, it will be open daily through Labor Day.
The Alien Abduction ride opened in March. The Whirlwind Coaster, a family fun ride, could be open this weekend. The GaleForce Roller Coaster thrill ride should be open by mid-June, and the “Wild Waves Coaster” is expected to be open by mid-July, said Brian Hartley, Playland’s vice president.
GaleForce was under construction earlier this spring. It will be 125 feet tall, have three different launch points, feature a 90-degree drop and a handful of other thrilling elements.
Jerry Tuller, the job supervisor for S&S Worldwide Inc., based in Utah, a leading manufacturer of vertical and family thrill rides, was on site to supervise the construction of GaleForce earlier this year.
“It’s a magnetic launch coaster,” he said. “The last time (at the end of the ride) at over 60 miles per hour, you will go over the top of the hill.”
Riding Alien Abduction, people spin around in a semi-darkened chamber and stick to the walls.
The Whirlwind Coaster, which opened this weekend, is a spinning coaster that travels on a figure-eight, flat track. At its highest point, riders will be 12 feet in the air, Hartley said.
Wild Waves Coaster features many peaks and dips, like a wave. The family ride was named by the public, Hartley said.
Playland offers 31 different rides. In 2013, Playland brought in seven new rides and took out four older rides.
New technology and low interest rates made this year the ideal time to add four new rides, Hartley said.
“Wild Waves will be very popular. It has a higher capacity with multiple trains and holds more people),” Hartley said.
All three of Morey’s amusement piers — Adventure, Mariner’s and Surfside — are open today, so visitors can see what’s in store on the Wildwood Boardwalk this season.
The Kang’ A Bounce, which has been popular with families, returns to the Surfside Pier.
A longer and more-winding track will be the main new feature of the “Grand Prix Raceway” on Adventure Pier, and will make it the largest go-cart track in the Wildwoods. It will be open sometime next month.
Jack Morey, a partner with Morey’s Pier, is particularly proud of the $1.5 million Starlux Mini Golf course, a 27-hole putt-putt course featuring two levels, three individually themed courses, a warmup practice green and a concession stand. Starlux is located across the street from the famous Wildwood sign and next door to the retro Starlux boutique family-friendly hotel.
Morey said parks have to stay fresh, because consumers have so many entertainment options.
“We are all really going after the same discretionary dollars,” Morey said. “Disney and Universal (theme parks) may not be our direct competition, but they are indirectly.”
Steel Pier plans to break ground with its new 200-foot-high observation wheel close to Labor Day in the hopes the ride will be ready by next spring, said owner and president Tony Catanoso. When completed, the ride will feature 40 cabins that hold six people each for a total capacity of 240.
For this summer, Steel Pier’s front and back bars have been retooled with more entertainment and happy hours, Catanoso said.
Steel Pier benefits from having the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort back in full swing this summer, Catanoso said. From July 9 through Sept. 2, Nik Wallenda’s Zirkus featuring the celebrated wire walker and his international troupe of circus performers will be doing a variety show in the Taj’s Xanadu Theater.
“The Wallendas will be doing two to three teaser shows in front of Steel Pier,” said Catanoso, and those shows will be free. “The new management (at the Taj) is doing a phenomenal job.”