By BRIAN IANIERI Staff Writer, 609-463-6713
Published: Wednesday, February 25, 2009
SEA ISLE CITY - City Council gave its approval Tuesday to the operators of Gillian's Wonderland Pier to run an amusement park on city land.
The approval allows the Ocean City-based amusement park operators to lease vacant city-owned land along John F. Kennedy Boulevard for the next 10 years. The company offered Sea Isle City 10 percent of the annual gross revenues of the park, including rides and concessions, as payment for the lease.
Gillian's Funland of Sea Isle City will include 10 or 11 kiddie rides.
It will be the first amusement park in Sea Isle City in almost 10 years, after the closing of Fun City, a 30-year staple of the resort that was sold to developers.
Opening an amusement park in the midst of a recession does not daunt Jay Gillian, whose grandfather started Gillian's Fun Deck in Ocean City about 1930, in the midst of the Great Depression.
"My grandfather has always told me, everyone always has money to put someone on a Merry Go Round," Gillian said. "It's the truth. We seem to always take care of our children."
Gillian said he had his eye on Sea Isle City for an amusement park for years.
But the price of real estate precluded it.
Gillian seized the opportunity when the city offered the lease on the land. The city is planning to build a Boardwalk-type walkway at the nearby marina later this year.
"If we had to buy the property, it would never be worth it. It would just cost millions of dollars for the land," he said.
Gillian said he expects to open the park by Memorial Day and is planning hours from 1 to about 9 p.m.
Mayor Leonard Desiderio has high hopes for the amusement park and its potential to keep visiting families in the city.
"I can remember getting hundreds and hundreds of letters saying, 'Fun City is closed, we need an amusement park,'" Desiderio said. "I can recall trying a couple of times to bring amusement parks to a couple different locations."
The specific rides for the amusement park have not yet been determined, but officials said they will be geared toward the very young.
"I really wanted to keep it to little kids, not to teenagers," Gillian said.
Under the agreement, the city can pre-approve any ride.