Three of 11 planned beach volleyball courts located on a previously vacant one-acre lot at the Boardwalk and New Jersey Avenue were officially opened Friday.
The three courts are part of the $135,000 first phase of the project, which is a joint effort by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the Atlantic City Alliance to convert vacant land into recreation areas and create free non-gaming attractions in the city’s Tourism District.
The lot sits between Showboat Casino Hotel and Revel. Showboat leases the property from the Atlantic City Housing Authority, said John Palmieri, executive director of the CRDA.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford said the volleyball courts were one step in transforming vacant blocks into something more pleasing and useful.
All 11 courts will be open “practically 24 hours a day,” said Liza Cartmell, president and CEO of the Alliance. They will be operated by AC Volleyball director Michael Feely, who created the organization to inform the public about volleyball events in the greater Atlantic City area, according to AC Volleyball’s Facebook page.
The courts will be maintained by the CRDA’s Special Improvement Division, but the scheduling of court use will be overseen by AC Volleyball, CRDA spokeswoman Kim Butler said.
Of the 11 planned courts, the first three should be lit and ready for both daytime and nighttime use by next week, Cartmell said. Lighting is pending approval from the state Department of Community Affairs.
Four more courts will be completed by next week, she said.
Butler said funding has not been set for the final four courts.
The cost of installing lighting and setting up electricity was reduced from initial projections. Showboat has agreed to be the power source for the court lighting, and the Alliance will pay the corresponding cost of electricity consumed.
The idea for the courts came about in April, and Cartmell said she had initially sought to open them around Memorial Day. Legal and environmental paperwork and issues delayed the opening until September, she said.
“At first you just think you are going to dig up some dirt and throw in some sand,” Cartmell said.
The project began coming together in the past 90 days, Palmieri said.
Among the environmental issues, an abandoned oil tank was discovered underground, said Tom Meehan, CRDA project director. The tank will be removed and will not hinder the target completion date of next week because it is located farther back in the property, away from the Boardwalk.
Also found underground was about 40 feet of the old road St. Charles Place, “like on the Monopoly board,” Cartmell said. The road was demolished to make way for Showboat in 1987.
“We had to lift up the asphalt,” she said. “It was always pooling (with water), and now we know why.”
Consideration was given to the type of sand for the courts, Cartmell said, which was analyzed with Feely’s input. Cartmell said having the right kind of sand could help the courts attact professional volleyball players and tournaments, in addition to play by residents and visitors.
“You have to have the right type of sand because if it’s too fine and gets stuck on the ball, the players don’t like it.”
Four different kinds of sand were tested, including the sand used during the 2012 London Olympics, but ultimately 3,800 tons of South Jersey sand was used.
The three courts to be lit, which border the Boardwalk, have been allotted extra space to allow for spectator seating at tournaments, Cartmell said.
“It’s another great piece for Atlantic City to turn into the multifaceted city we have become,” said Don Marrandino, Eastern Division president for Caesars Entertainment Corp., which includes Showboat. “Even if the courts are empty, they look appealing” in comparison to the dirt lot, he said.
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