This town's oldest casino is heading to Margaritaville.
Under a sweltering, tropics-like sun Tuesday, Gov. Christie and Jimmy Buffett, creator of the iconic 1970s tune, appeared on a stage on the Boardwalk to announce a new partnership between Resorts Casino Hotel and the singer/songwriter/entrepreneur to create a Margaritaville-themed restaurant, bar, and surf shop.
"Margaritaville will help transform Atlantic City," said Christie, wearing a lei over his dark suit. "I congratulate Jimmy Buffett for bringing the Margaritaville brand here."
The project is being built on the site of the former Steeplechase Pier behind Resorts that was destroyed in a fire in 1988.
Planned is a 400-seat Margaritaville Cafe inside Resorts, with 40 additional seats on the Boardwalk, said Aaron Gomes, executive vice president of operations and son of the late Dennis Gomes, the casino's previous co-owner.
The complex also will include a LandShark Bar & Grill on the beach, a year-round venue; a Five O'Clock Somewhere Bar inside the casino; and a Margaritaville restaurant, retail shops, and coffee shop along Resorts' Boardwalk facade.
Buffett gave a nod to the large flock of Parrotheads that gathered to welcome him, snap his photo, and cheer him on.
"It's a pleasure and honor to be here," said Buffett, dressed in flip-flops, khaki shorts, and a baseball cap. "Atlantic City has always been a historic beach town, and I thrive in those kinds of communities."
Christie, who initiated a state-led effort to revitalize Atlantic City amid declining gaming revenue, said nongambling attractions such as Margaritaville were needed to remake it into a true resort.
The governor put the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority in charge of a new tourism district with a new master plan. It will be up to the board, which now controls zoning and approvals, to give the final OK to Margaritaville.
The project "reiterates the governor's message that Atlantic City is ripe for all types of investment -- gaming and nongaming alike," said CRDA executive director John Palmieri, who was seated near the stage.
Construction of the $35 million complex, to begin in September, is scheduled for completion in the spring.
Christie said the project would generate 250 construction jobs and 162 permanent jobs and was part of more than $2.6 billion in new investment along the Boardwalk, including revitalization of the South Inlet area; a renovated Steel Pier, which debuts Friday; a $25 million makeover of the Atlantic Club; $9.5 million in upgrades at the Tropicana; and the new Revel Casino.
Resorts opened in May 1976 as Atlantic City's first gambling hall. It adopted a Roaring '20s theme in May 2011, six months after the casino was sold to Dennis Gomes and New York real estate magnate Morris Bailey for $35 million.
The flappers and the 1920s theme will remain, Aaron Gomes said Tuesday.
"The two can complement each other," he said. "The Margaritaville theme is only in one section of the casino, not throughout."
Margaritaville-themed casinos are in Biloxi, Miss.; Las Vegas; and Bossier City, La.
This is not Buffett's first attempt to enter the Atlantic City market. In 2008, a bid to bring the Margaritaville theme to Trump Marina Hotel Casino was scrapped when efforts to sell the casino to New York developer Richard Fields fell through. (Houston-based Landry's Inc. bought that casino in May 2011 and converted it to a Golden Nugget Atlantic City.)
As part of Christie's revitalization plan for the Shore resort, the casino-reinvestment authority established the nonprofit Atlantic City Alliance to spearhead a five-year, $30-million-a-year rebranding campaign to market nongambling attractions.
On Tuesday, Christie reiterated his commitment to Atlantic City. When asked about the possibility of putting a casino at the Meadowlands Complex in East Rutherford, N.J., which includes a racetrack and is home to the New York Giants and Jets NFL teams, he said there was no chance.
North Jersey lawmakers are again pushing the issue amid Atlantic City's tumbling casino revenue.
"First of all, after 2 1/2 years, you know by now that when I say something, I mean it," said Christie, with Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) looking on.
"We need to give Atlantic City at least five years to basically get back on its feet. I'm not backing away from that."
Most Popular Stories
- I never set out to be a role model but it's great to be one ; IN THE HOTSEATBetter known by his stage name Wretch 32, Jermaine Sinclair is a 28-year-old rapper from London. In 2011 his debut album Black and White sold over a million copies and scored three top five singles. His latest single Blackout was released this week
- Promoter McLean 'provided more musical joy than Dylan and Prince combined'
- Emirati announces new film project at Cannes
- Schedule packed with talent at the Fox
- SINCE YOU ASKED [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)]
- Entrepreneurs Chase Social Media
- SET PHASERS TO DUMB Spock emotional and in love? Nonstop explosions? The highly illogical enterprise of J.J. Abrams' 'Star Trek'
- European Car Sales up First Time in 20 Months
- Contra Costa Times Chuck Barney column
- The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va., Casey Gillis column