RESUSCITATING ATLANTIC CITY—IS A LIFEBOAT REALLY ON ITS WAY?
Unfortunately, the collapse and demise of Atlantic City—arguably Las Vegas East—has been a recurring theme in recent years. A staggering economy coupled with overwhelming gaming competition has made this municipality’s recovery one of the worst bets in town. However, recent statements made by Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein seem to indicate that he and casino architect Paul Steelman have agreed to buy the four-story, 300,000-square-foot, half-empty Caesars Pier shopping center in Atlantic City in the hopes of making it a music-themed entertainment center. The proposed name is “The Playground.”
The Playground—for which Blastein purportedly paid a paltry $2.7 million which pales in comparison to the $200 million that the pier cost in the first place—is poised to offer many attractions. For example, the first floor will be modeled after finer venues found in both Nashville and Austin, Texas. All told, 14 music venues are to be featured in this project including one such venue that can accommodate 2,000 fans.
The timetable on the purported venture? Phase one should be ready by July 4 with the balance of venues in tow for a potential opening by Christmas.
In support of this project is Atlantic City’s mayor, Don Guardian. Apparently, the shift is to get away from gambling as being Atlantic City’s exclusive focus.
This can be good news for many local and national artists who see Atlantic City as a perennial stop on their way East. It is a long standing gig that serves (and has served) as a platform for other venues when visiting the Right Coast. And even though Atlantic City’s time has passed to convincingly etch its niche and forever establish its presence on the entertainment map, “A.C.” might still have a shot at making some noise, albeit a long one at that. Only time will tell.
Thus, it seems that gambling is not the way that “America’s Playground” will make its triumphant return; and that is somewhat an ironic twist of fate. There are simply too many outlets for games of chance elsewhere on the East Coast to allow Atlantic City to be that unique. Furthermore, other areas which are similar to A.C. seemed to have hedged their bet by leaving room for other attractions for the non-gaming segment of our population. Unfortunately, Atlantic City put all its money on one bet and in the end it lost or it appears to be losing.
Therefore, maybe Blatstein is on to something. Maybe music will in fact usher back life to Atlantic City. If that happens that will surely benefit the music industry and further fortify the strength of the Jersey Shore music scene. Are we about to see a resurgence of Atlantic City? Seems like a good bet to me.