New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants a new Atlantic City -- a leisure and vacation destination that's cleaner, safer, brighter, more appealing and with more attractions and newer attractions.
Christie came to the center of the city's world famous boardwalk to announce a sweeping plan to modernize the queen of American resorts as a family-friendly attraction that will draw visitors from all over the world.
We've already reported on some of the details of the Christie task force plan (which also covers the Meadowlands, Monmouth Park, professional sports venues and the PNC Arts Center) but yesterday's visit by the Governor to South Jersey focused almost exclusively on Atlantic City.
The Governor feels that Atlantic City has grown stale and complacent. He's factoring in gaming competition not just from Las Vegas but from an increasing number of nearby venues (Pennsylvania, Connecticut, etc.) and he knows that Atlantic City must hustle if it is to survive in this new climate.
The Governor made it clear that what's at stake for Atlantic City is "not just its demise" but its possible death as a tourist destination.
Here are some of the points that Christie made with an opening statement and a lively news conference that followed:
--Atlantic City has natural assets that make it a prime (and highly desirable) vacation destination. "No one wants to go to Las Vegas in July," Christie said. "No one." But the Governor noted that the cooler shore temperatures and the ocean mean Atlantic City must capitalize on its assets.
--Atlantic City must to more to market itself. "Right now," Christie pointed out, "The Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Bureau spends more on salaries and benefits than it spends on marketing. That's not right." Christie wants to channel significant amounts of funds directly into promotion so that Atlantic City can compete on the marketing front.
--Casino reinvestment and development funds should be centered in Atlantic City and remain in South Jersey rather than being distributed to other parts of the state. "This is where the money should stay," Christie said. "We've got to put aside parochial considerations. If Atlantic City succeeds, we all succeed."
--The plan to revitalize Atlantic City is a public-private partnership that depends on private investment. The Governor stressed that the state is trying to cut expenses and divest itself of burdensome and unnecessary activities and properties. "We want to unleash the power of the private sector because it's private investment that will allow us to turn the corner here," Christie said. To this end, the Governor wants to scale down and streamline government regulation wherever possible.
--The Governor is willing to listen to all ideas from all comers but he wants to see progress on a new Atlantic City "by this time next year." Christie stressed that the revitalization of Atlantic City can and will be accomplished "if we stop worrying about who gets the credit and start focusing on getting the job done." Christie added: "I think I've shown that I'm willing to work across the aisle to accomplish goals and do what's right for the state. So, let's get to work on it."
Photo copyright 2010 by Dan Cirucci.