Live around here long enough, and you learn not to get too excited about announcements of new attractions in Atlantic City.
Announcements are easy. Artists’ renderings of the proposed new development are easy — and invariably striking. Call it the “pretty picture” school of planning.
So we generally try not to gush.
But the announcement that Jimmy Buffett is bringing his Margaritaville brand to Resorts Casino Hotel is apparently the real deal — and a welcome development at a crucial time.
Despite obvious improvements on the Boardwalk, including the opening of Revel, the Atlantic City comeback hasn’t quite begun. It’s impossible to know what the tipping point will be that turns Atlantic City around. But each incremental step in the right direction brings the resort one step closer to that tipping point — and the $35.5 million Margaritaville-themed expansion at Resorts is, in fact, a significant step.
The plan involves rebuilding a portion of Steeplechase Pier, a former amusement pier that was never rebuilt after a 1988 fire, and putting a 375-seat LandShark Bar & Grill there. The Buffett restaurant will have a surf shop connected to it and an adjacent beach bar with volleyball and bocce courts, cabanas and fire pits. Resorts will get a new, Margaritaville-themed Boardwalk facade, a 440-seat Margaritaville Cafe, a Five O’Clock Somewhere bar, retail stores and a Margaritaville-themed gaming area.
Sounds like fun. More important, it sounds doable.
Buffett was apparently drawn by market research indicating that the nation’s largest concentration of Parrot Heads (as Buffett’s fans are known) is in the Philadelphia and New Jersey region. Resorts and Buffett are counting on $12.5 million in financing from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and a grant (amount unknown at the moment) from the state Economic Development Authority.
Getting the financing, of course, will determine whether this proposal actually moves beyond the pretty-picture and gushing-editorial stage. But there are good signs.
Consider what project architect Thomas Sykes, of Atlantic City, said after an initial meeting on the plans:
“Imagine you’re in a meeting with people from literally all over the country with one of the strongest brands known, and they say, ‘Get us open ... being at Resorts on the beach in Atlantic City will be one of the strongest things we can do. We can’t wait to get there.’”
That kind of optimism and fresh energy are just what Atlantic City needs.
Besides, how can you not love a project that, at the Boardwalk announcement of the plans, got Gov. Chris Christie to put a lei around his neck?