ATLANTIC CITY - Add two more major landmarks to the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority's ever-expanding empire in Atlantic City.
The CRDA will oversee the casino zones, beaches and Boardwalk within Atlantic City's new state-run Tourism District. But an overlooked part of the tourism plan also hands over control of the Atlantic City Convention Center and Boardwalk Hall to the CRDA.
Ownership of the facilities is being transferred from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which had been overseeing both buildings. Attorneys are still sorting through the final details of the ownership and financial structure before the CRDA officially takes charge, officials said Friday.
"They're trying to get it done as expeditiously as possible," sports authority spokesman John Samerjan said.
Multiple public agencies and private companies currently hold an ownership or financial interest in the buildings, explained Jeffrey Vasser, president of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority.
Boardwalk Hall is owned by the Atlantic County Improvement Authority, but is leased by the sports authority through a partnership called Historic Boardwalk Hall LLC. The private company, Pitney Bowes Credit Corp. is part of the financing for the hall's partnership. Boardwalk Hall, built in 1929, originally served as the city's convention facility but was converted into a sports and concert arena in 2000.
The Atlantic City Convention Center, meanwhile, is owned by the sports authority. A private company, General Foods Credit Corp., is an investor in the convention center through a sale and lease agreement with the sports authority, Vasser said.
Vasser noted that key issues must be resolved before the CRDA takes over. Leases, bonds and any future involvement of Pitney Bowes and General Foods are part of the multifaceted deal, he said.
When everything is completed, the operation of both buildings will continue as normal, and the change in ownership will be imperceptible to the public, Vasser added.
Transferring control of the buildings actually began before Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Feb. 1 creating the Tourism District under the CRDA's oversight. Legislation approved in 2008 separated the Atlantic City Convention Center & Visitors Authority from its former parent agency, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.
The 2008 legislation required the sports authority to relinquish oversight of the convention center and Boardwalk Hall to the ACCVA. However, the new Tourism District legislation folds the operations of the ACCVA under the CRDA, meaning the latter agency will ultimately have control of the convention center and Boardwalk Hall, Samerjan said.
The Atlantic County Improvement Authority will also play a role in the CRDA takeover. Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said the county agency will have to give its consent as Boardwalk Hall's owner.
"Eventually, they're going to have to come to us," he said of the state agencies.
Levinson stressed that the state must assure the county that there are no plans to demolish the historic Boardwalk Hall.
"As far as I'm concerned, that hall must be respected and remain standing," he said.
In 2006, Levinson objected to plans then by casino moguls Donald Trump and Steve Wynn to demolish Boardwalk Hall to make way for a huge new $3 billion gaming resort. The Trump-Wynn project never materialized.
Contact Donald Wittkowski: