Showboat owner planning $100M water park in Atlantic City

The Philadelphia developer tells The Associated Press the as-yet-unnamed resort is aimed at vacationing families who find little to do in Atlantic City.

Former Showboat casino in Atlantic City, N.J.

This June 8, 2016 photo shows the exterior of the former Showboat casino in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

The owner of Atlantic City’s Showboat hotel plans to build a $100 million year-round indoor water park next to it and will break ground in August, he said Wednesday.

Bart Blatstein, the Philadelphia developer who runs the Showboat as a hotel that does not offer gambling, applied Tuesday for a state tax credit to help finance the water park.

The as-yet-unnamed resort is aimed at vacationing families who find little to do in Atlantic City, Blatstein told The Associated Press in an interview.

“Atlantic City does not have a family market,” Blatstein said. “This will open up a whole new market that doesn’t exist.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

An aquarium and a giant Ferris wheel already draw some families, but Atlantic City remains far more geared to adult gamblers.

Blatstein is seeking approval from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority for designation as an entertainment retail district, which would entitle the project to an annual rebate of up to $2.5 million in sales tax generated by it. There also would be tax breaks on construction materials used for the project.

It would be built on an existing parking lot between the Showboat and the Ocean Casino Resort at the north end of the Atlantic City Boardwalk, an area that casino and city leaders have been trying to revitalize.

The development would be connected to the adjacent Showboat hotel.

Blatstein said he already has assembled a team to run the project and has completed soil testing.

“This is going to happen,” he said.

The proposal is the latest in a string of water park projects envisioned for Atlantic City.

In April 2017, a local investment group led by investor Ronald Young signed a deal to buy the former Atlantic Club casino, announcing plans for a family-friendly hotel, anchored by an indoor water park. But when financing dried up, so did the water park plan, and the Atlantic Club went back on the market.

Young said he had previously been rebuffed in his plan for a water park at the former Bader Field airport site.

In 2012, a group headed by developer Tom Sherwood proposed a sailboat-shaped hotel and water park project in the Marina District.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

In January, Blatstein sold the Playground pier complex to a subsidiary of Caesars Entertainment, essentially reversing a transaction he made five years earlier when he bought the pier from the casino company. No sale price was divulged.

Blatstein said in January that he was selling the pier to enable him to concentrate on a plan to return gambling to the Showboat, something for which he has sought preliminary approval from regulators. He would not say Wednesday whether the effort is still alive.

But he appeared to have had the water park project in mind, saying at the time that he would announce in the near future “a very significant development” for the site.

The type of sales tax rebate he is seeking has been widely used in Atlantic City. Previous recipients include the new Hard Rock casino; The Walk shopping district; and The Quarter, a dining and shopping section of the Tropicana casino.

An official with the reinvestment authority did not immediately return a message seeking comment Wednesday.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal