The strains of Jimmy Buffett’s 1970s hit record “Margaritaville” are already filling Resorts Casino Hotel. Outside, there are “Coming Soon” signs to advertise a new Margaritaville complex.

By Memorial Day weekend, the entire place should be ready. On Wednesday, Resorts officials celebrated the start of a major part of the $35 million project — the pouring of concrete for the centerpiece Margaritaville-themed LandShark Bar & Grill.

“This is another exciting step toward the completion of the Margaritaville project,” said Mark Giannantonio, the newly appointed president and chief executive officer of Resorts. “It is exciting for Resorts, our team members, our guests and for Atlantic City as a whole. This will be a one-of-a-kind destination that will change the landscape of Atlantic City.”

Workers in hard hats are crawling over the oceanfront site, pouring the concrete and installing piles to support the building’s foundation. The LandShark Bar & Grill will stretch 200 feet over the beach, occupying the former site of the Steeplechase Pier, which burned in 1988.

Giannantonio said Margaritaville will be Atlantic City’s only year-round dining and entertainment venue on the beach. Resorts is building the project in partnership with Buffett, the singer-songwriter who owns the Margaritaville brand.

“Essentially, Margaritaville will be an incredible project for Resorts, but it is also an incredible project for the city,” Giannantonio said. “It’s a brand so well known throughout the nation. There’s such a dense population of Jimmy Buffett fans, the Parrotheads, throughout the Northeast. For us, it makes perfect sense.”

Margaritaville’s construction symbolizes new growth in a market still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, which forced Atlantic City’s 12 casinos to shut down from five to eight days beginning Oct. 28.

“We think it will be a game-changer for Atlantic City. The further we can distance ourselves from Sandy, the stronger we will become,” Giannantonio said of Margaritaville’s construction.

Atlantic City gambling revenue plunged in October and November in Sandy’s aftermath. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement is scheduled today to release December’s gambling revenue figures, which should show whether the lingering effects of Sandy continue to hamper business.

Margaritaville, meanwhile, is the main part of a $60 million facelift for Resorts this year. Other upgrades include refurbished bathrooms for 259 guest rooms in the Ocean Tower, a new high-limit slots area, a new food court on the casino floor and two new VIP lounges.

The VIP lounges are opening today, representing a far more upscale enclave than Resorts’ previous private clubs. Members of Resorts’ Paramount and Epic customer-loyalty programs are allowed to enter the clubs.

While work on the LandShark Bar & Grill is going on in public view from the beach and Boardwalk, other parts of the Margaritaville project are under way inside the casino, some concealed by a construction wall.

The Boardwalk entryway to Resorts is already being transformed into a Margaritaville Cafe. Construction will soon start on another phase of the project, the 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar, Giannantonio said. The Margaritaville theme will also be extended into parts of the casino floor, including new tropical-colored carpeting.

All of the Margaritaville attractions are expected to open in time for the Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the peak summer tourist season. The new theming will dominate Resorts’ decor, giving it more of a beach-party vibe.

“There’s an excitement here now that is unmatched at any other place that I’ve worked at,” Resorts spokeswoman Courtney Birmingham said.

Currently, Resorts is known for its retro-chic Roaring ’20s theme. Resorts launched the Roaring ’20s branding in 2011 to capitalize on the popularity of the hit HBO series “Boardwalk Empire,” which was inspired by Prohibition-era Atlantic City. Although Resorts officials have said the Roaring ’20s theme will not disappear, Margaritaville will now be the casino’s focal point.

Contact Donald Wittkowski:


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