ATLANTIC CITY — Look around. Look up. There is more to Atlantic City than just what a visitor sees on the street level.
The casinos and the Chelsea Hotel have been making increased use of rooftop spaces, following the Las Vegas trend of rooftop pools and bars.
The casinos here aren’t just hosting parties there.
Several casino hotel rooftops are being used to grow herbs and vegetables. Harrah’s roof is home to a peregrine falcon that returns annually. Tropicana Atlantic City visitors use lavish rooftop pools, and others play rooftop games befitting a backyard or tailgate party.
As more properties add rooftop venues, they are evolving into a unique slice of Atlantic City, where bathers lounge in pools overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and where spearmint grown on a roof garden is being served in cocktails in bars.
Competition driven by the addition of casino gambling in neighboring states is spurring operators to add such amenities as rooftop pools and party decks, said Rich Emery, president of Thalden-Boyd-Emery Architects, headquartered in St. Louis. His firm is asked increasingly to construct rooftop amenities.
“The days of if you build it, they will come are over,” Emery said. “Amenities are what the customers are demanding, and the casinos are putting them in.”
When someone walks on the Boardwalk near the casinos here, they cannot see the beach over the dunes. But that is not a problem when while hanging out on a rooftop.
Christine Brown, 43, spent one afternoon with her three friends lounging at the Blue Parrot Pool Bar on the sixth floor of Tropicana’s North Tower.
“We wanted to chill without the sand. So far, we’ve had a really good time,” said Brown, of Turnersville, Gloucester County.
The Tropicana and the Chelsea decided to follow the pool and party route on their low-level roofs.
Steve Callender, general manager at Tropicana for five years, upgraded the outdoor Blue Parrot Pool Bar on the sixth floor of the North Tower with lounge chairs, an area to play the corn hole lawn game with artificial turf and a live DJ on weekends through Labor Day.
The pool decks on the North and South towers were established in order to create a resort experience for the guests, Callender said.
“We were looking to create a more fun experience for our guests by adding music and games. Guests are able to relax and listen to music or get up and play a game, such as corn hole and putting golf. Our DJs bring nightlife to ‘daylife’ at the pool deck,” Callender said.
Tropicana’s South Tower, where there is a heated indoor pool and pool deck, used to hold fitness equipment, but it was moved when AtlantiCare LifeCenter Fitness opened in May 2015 on the ground level of The Quarter at Tropicana.
The removal of the fitness equipment made room for a tiki bar, putting green, shuffle board and a pingpong table, Callender said.
At least 40 percent of the Tropicana guests — the sixth-floor pools on the North and South tower are open to hotel guests only — make use of the rooftop pools, Callender said.
“Different types of people like to do different types of things,” said Callender as his explanation for his investment in his pool decks.
The Chelsea’s Cabana Club has an oversized, 25-foot umbrella that covers a full-service bar with seating. The cabanas are equipped with Apple TV, wicker furniture and bottle and food service.
Similar to the Tropicana, DJs play music at the Cabana Club, but unlike the Tropicana rooftop pools, which are closed to the public, nonhotel guests are allowed into the Cabana Club with a cover charge, said Francesca Santoro, the Chelsea’s general manager.
“We have sellout Saturdays when we have good weather and a great DJ,” Santoro said. “Guests love the vibe, not everyone likes sand in the shoes.”
Resorts Casino Hotel, Caesars Atlantic City and Harrah’s Resort make some room for health consciousness with their rooftops. Resorts and Harrah’s both have herb and vegetable gardens. Caesars’ rooftop houses an herb garden and a seasonal outdoor rooftop pool.
On the third-floor roof of Resorts’ Ocean Tower, 60 pots of herbs and vegetables sit in the sunshine in an area that is not accessible to the public. Last year, there were at least 40 pots, and the area growing herbs and vegetables is going to expand, said Capriccio Restaurant chef Steve Klawitter.
Vegetables and herbs are thriving outdoors because of the increased light exposure, the ocean air and the amount of rain they receive, said Resorts’ executive chef Robert Levenson.
All of the casino’s restaurants use the herbs and vegetables. EastWind uses the Thai hot peppers. jalapeno peppers are used by Breadsticks Cafe And Grill. Purple sage, spearmint and tarragon are used in cocktail drinks.
“This a chef-driven initiative,” said Levenson. Chefs help maintain the garden.
For the several years, Caesars and Harrah’s have maintained herb gardens on their roofs. Harrah’s herb and vegetable garden is a adjacent to a family-friendly pool for those under 21 on the fourth floor of the Marina Tower.
“The fresh herbs enhance our locally-sourced dishes in our restaurants and add a healthy, farm-to-table approach to offering fresh ingredients,” said Noel Stevenson, regional director of public relations, Caesars Entertainment, Atlantic City and Philadelphia.