Investing in the future can be risky and expensive. It takes foresight. It takes courage.

And that's why we welcome the investments being made this year along the Jersey shore by amusement-park and pier operators who recognize that change is necessary not only for their own growth, but for the growth of the entire region.

Atlantic City's Steel Pier is slated to become home to a 200-foot-tall, 42-gondola observation wheel. "This is our biggest project to date, and it's an important piece for Atlantic City," said the pier's president, Anthony Catanoso.

The new wheel will tower over the pier's current Ferris wheel, which measures 66 feet tall and cost just $315,000 in 2003. The new observation wheel, complete with WiFi access, heating, air conditioning and cushioned seats, comes with a $13 million price tag, which covers the construction of the wheel and the expansion of the pier to hold it.

And Steel Pier isn't the only pier making upgrades.

In Cape May County, Morey's Piers routinely adds to its attractions.

For 2013, that includes everything from upgrades to its Zoom Phloom log ride to creation of an artist's colony in the heart of Wildwood.

The artBOX attraction at the Morey's Adventure Pier is a 10,000 square foot space made up of 11 brightly colored re-purposed shipping containers. Inside, five resident artists are on hand working on their crafts. A new sushi restaurant is also in the mix.

"This is an environment that is very unique, but very comfortable in Wildwood," Jack Morey said when the last shipping container was installed in May.

Morey sees the artBOX as an attraction for adults, a draw for those looking for something different.

The Morey family also plans to construct a wooden rollercoaster that will span the beach and two piers. The projected cost? $12 million.

"If we want to differentiate ourselves, then the tools to do that are larger, one-of-a-kind attractions," Morey said.

Also in Wildwood, Splash Zone Water Park, which opened in 2000, made its biggest investment yet, installing a wave simulator complex called Flow House for $1.9 million

"We thought it was time," Splash Zone managing partner Andy Weiner said.

The key attraction inside Flow House is the FlowRider Double, which offers riders endless waves generated by thousands of gallons of water pumped across a 40-foot inclined surface.

The addition, Weiner said, was not only designed to help his business, but all of Five Mile Beach.

"A rising tide lifts all boats. Bringing more people to town helps everybody," Weiner said.

All of this new investment in an economy that is still recovering from a recession and from Hurricane Sandy bodes well for our region's future.


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