Atlantic City hoping for boost from upcoming beach concerts
Atlantic City's beach will be overrun by tens of thousands of music fans in the next few days, giving the struggling resort town another chance to try to capitalize on entertainment offerings beyond its casinos.
"It's all about getting people out to the beach and the boardwalk, letting them see what we have to offer there and in other areas (of the city)," said Jeff Guaracino, executive director of the Atlantic City Alliance, a casino-funded group that promotes the resort to other parts of the country. "There has been some criticism in the past that Atlantic City has ignored these great assets, so we want to play to our strengths and diversify our tourism economy."
Maroon 5 will headline a beach show on Sunday, while Rascal Flatts tops the bill for another concert on Thursday. The two shows are expected to draw about 100,000 people overall at a venue that stretches five city blocks.
Officials say tickets sales for both shows have been going well, adding that tickets also would be available at the Boardwalk Hall box office on the day of the shows. The city will receive a $3 cut for every ticket sold, with a guarantee of at least $130,000 to cover costs for extra security and maintenance.
The biggest benefit, though, will be the boost the shows are expected to bring to the city's economy.
The shows will create dozens of temporary jobs, mostly at food and gifts concessions, and provide work for laborers needed to construct the concert stage, hang lights and bring in portable toilets.
Staffers will also be on scene to help guide concertgoers. Hotels, parking lots and other entities also expect to see increased business from the shows, and concert organizers say they will use the shows to spread the word about other nearby attractions.
"With the shows at the start and the end of the weekends, we're hoping people will decide to come in early and take in the area, patronize businesses," Guaracino said.
Last year's two free beach concerts, Blake Shelton and Lady Antebellum, drew a total of 120,000 people and generated an estimated $24 million in visitor spending. Those shows were paid for by the alliance, but this summer's shows are being produced by concert promoter LiveNation.
Those shows brought a needed -- albeit temporary -- boost to the struggling city, which has worked to reinvent itself in recent years as gambling revenues stagnated and a major shakeout shuttered four casinos. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is giving $1 million to fund this year's shows, to help promote non-gambling options.
"I'm glad to see them providing more options for families," said Jeanette Richardson, a Toms River resident who will attend the Maroon 5 show with her husband and two young children. "(Atlantic City) is struggling, and making it strong again is in the state's best interests."
In recent years, Atlantic City has seen the value of its taxable property plummet.
But officials say the city's efforts to recapture some of the tourism dollars it has lost to casino competition finally appear to be working.
A recent study found cash sales at non-gambling outlets within casinos represent 28.5 percent of revenue, up from 22.3 percent two years ago, and bars have increased their payrolls by nearly 39 percent in the past two years. The study didn't address profits, but many casinos have reported upturns in profits after adding extras.
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