by Paul Ruben
Ahh, it’s spring, my favourite time of the year, when the snow melts, the flowers bloom and the parks open for the season.
early April, 10 days before opening, preparations for the coming season were in full swing at several venues on the New Jersey shore. I was curious to see how close to being ready they really were.
First stop was at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. The Catanoso brothers, Tony and Bill, were busy reassembling their park. Unlike most parks that remove the gondolas but leave ride structures in place over the winter, their preparations are more extensive. Because of the threat of winter storms and salt water spray, all of their rides are portable, moved off the pier for the winter and stored inland. Now they were being re-erected.
Tony told me that all rides were refurbished over the winter. There was extensive non-destructive testing, many parts were replaced, and rides were repainted. I’m sure you do the same at your park. Some rides were now being repositioned. A series of insurance and government inspections were scheduled before the park was to open.
I wandered the pier and found the Zamperla Disk ‘O’ pictured here. It was still on its trailer, ready to be deployed. Other rides were in similar states of disarray. They had 10 days to go before opening, and likely needed every minute. My visit was brief, but I did find time to quiz Tony about his thoughts for the coming season. You can read the results here.
Gillian’s Wonderland Pier in Ocean City is not over the water like the Steel Pier, but on the land side of the boardwalk. Jay Gillian told me he left many of his rides in place for a New Year’s Eve charity event that drew 10,000 people. But like the Catanosos, he and his staff have done a lot of ride maintenance and has moved some rides, including two to Gillian’s Funland in nearby Sea Isle City. In Ocean City he is adding two new rides, an Airborne Shot from SBF Visa and a Zamperla Rockin’ Tug.
“The economy has definitely affected us,” he told me. “Sea Isle will take a while, but we’ll make it work. I’m getting the right mix of rides.”
Nearby at Playland’s Castaway Cove, Scott Simpson had taken three-quarters of his rides down and stored them for the winter, and shrink-wrapped the rest to protect them from the salt air. He was concerned about getting needed parts for his Techno Jump, however, after he learned that Sartori had been closed and couldn’t be reached.
“We had a good year last year,” he confided. “Summer housing rentals are up in Ocean City, so I expect it to improve. If you can’t find a way to improve your yearly gross every year you’re losing money because costs continue to rise.”
But amusement park visits remain a bargain. When my friend’s wife begged him to take her somewhere expensive for a change, he didn’t take her to the amusement park. He drove her to the local gas station.