ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Atlantic City's casinos came through Superstorm Sandy just fine, even if few people realize it.
With the industry reeling from the aftermath of the storm, which wrecked thousands of homes and businesses in New Jersey and New York, the resort town got a psychological boost and a financial vote of confidence Wednesday as work began on a new $35 million Jimmy Buffet-themed entertainment complex on the beach.
Construction crews started work on the Margaritaville project at Resorts Casino Hotel, in what casino president Gary Van Hettinga called a vote of confidence in the seaside resort's long-term viability.
"It shows we are extremely confident that the future of Atlantic City is bright and that non-gaming amenities are an essential aspect of it," he said as he watched crews with blow torches dismantle a large billboard across from the casino where the 16,000-square foot Landshark Bar & Grill will rise.
As is the case with other Margaritaville properties owned by entertainer Jimmy Buffett, plans call for island-themed landscaping, including palm trees, more than a dozen cabanas, two beach volleyball courts, a bocce ball court, two horseshoe pits and a fire pit. An adjacent surf shop also is planned.
The complex is expected to be open by Memorial Day weekend.
Wednesday morning, crews using heavy equipment began moving pilings onto the beach that will support the restaurant, which will be on the sand just about 200 feet from the Boardwalk.
Part of the Margaritaville complex will be inside Resorts as well. Workers were gutting a restaurant that will be re-done as part of the project, while others were putting up new drywall in corridors.
The idea is to bring new excitement and new customers to a casino that has struggled since nearly having to close two years ago. Resorts is now run by the Mohegan Indian tribe of Connecticut, an arrangement that came about following the sudden death of Resorts co-owner Dennis Gomes in February.
The project is expected to create 250 construction jobs and an additional 162 permanent jobs.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC