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NEWS: Steel Pier gets $100 million investment from new owner

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Just a few months after selling the Trump Marina casino, Trump Entertainment Resorts is putting Atlantic City's storied Steel Pier amusement park on the block.


The New Jersey beachfront landmark, which dates back to 1898 and is often compared to New York's Coney Island, has been known for showcasing attractions like the Diving Horse and the Human Cannonball, along with thrill rides and other entertainment.


But in the latest move by Trump Entertainment to sell assets, the company has hired CB Richard Ellis, a real-estate services firm, to auction the 9.7-acre home to 24 rides, games and prize wheels. The minimum bid for the historic pier will be $2.5 million, according to CB Richard Ellis.


"We believe selling the Pier through auction is the best course of action for the company to increase the equity value for our shareholders," said Brian Cahill, a spokesman for Trump Entertainment. "We are a gaming company, and Steel Pier is not part of the casino." Steel Pier is operated by Atlantic Pier Amusements Inc., whose lease will expire in 2016.


At one point, Trump Entertainment was planning to transform the pier, possibly by adding a hotel, casino, spa and luxury condominiums. The development permits that the company has obtained wouldn't be transferable to the winning bidder, according to Douglas Johnson, a managing director of CBRE Auction Services.


The potential sale comes as Atlantic City is struggling with a poor economy and increased competition from new casinos that have cropped up in surrounding states. As a result, property values have been falling.


Donald Trump's name used to be synonymous with Atlantic City, but over recent years he has faded from the scene. In the late 1980s, he developed three casinos there. But as the fortunes of Atlantic City declined, they went in and out of bankruptcy three times, and Mr. Trump's stake diminished.


Today, Mr. Trump owns a 5% to 10% stake in Trump Entertainment Resorts, which owns the Steel Pier as well as the Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza. The rest of the company is owned by former creditors. In February, the company sold Trump Marina for $38 million to Landry's Inc., the company that operates Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.


Trump Entertainment has no direct ties with Trump Organization, Mr. Trump's company that is involved in a wide range of real-estate developments throughout the world.


In past years, Steel Pier showcased some of the biggest names in show business, including Guy Lombardo, Benny Goodman, Mae West, Charlie Chaplin, the Three Stooges and Frank Sinatra. But it also has had its share of trouble. In 1904, a storm washed away part of it and fires in 1969 and 1982 destroyed what was left of the original structure. The current structure was built in 1993 by Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, a predecessor to Trump Entertainment.

Edited by jedimaster1227
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This could be a good thing. Have investors that want to own and run it instead of a bunch of creditors that got saddled with it in a bankruptcy.


I agree. Selling the place doesn't mean the people who buy it won't want it as is.

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^^I actually thought it was going to be done last year and tried to get the credz, however, mother nature had a different plan. It's always been the step child of Trump Ent. At least they weren't/aren't running it. That reminds me, I need to look at hotel rooms.

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  • 1 month later...


Just weeks before it was set to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, Atlantic City’s World Famous The Steel Pier was purchased by a group headed by the group that has operated rides and attractions on the pier for the last two decades.


On Wednesday Steel Pier Associates, made up of the Catanoso brothers -- Anthony, Charles and William -- and long-standing partner, Ed Olwell, announced that they had purchased the venue from Trump Entertainment Group.


“This purchase means more to us than just owning the structure on which we operate an amusement park,” said President of Steel Pier Associates Anthony Catanoso. “For us, it’s an honor.”


Paul Steelman, the entertainment architect of Sands Macao is joining Steel Pier Associates in the deal.


From spring to fall, the Steel Pier offers about 20 rides, food, games and even a heliport. It’s unclear if the purchase of the property will prompt the new owners to make things bigger and better.


Terms of the purchase weren’t released.



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  • 6 months later...



Steel Pier, one of the Boardwalk's most storied landmarks, will become a year-round attraction as part of a $100 million makeover that will create new amusement rides and resurrect one famous older-style act - the diving horse.


The multiyear renovation project is being done by a new ownership group, including the Catanoso family that operated the pier under lease for 20 years and acclaimed Las Vegas architect Paul Steelman. The investors began exploring ways to revitalize the fading pier after buying it last August for $4.25 million from casino operator Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc.


"We hope to make it a showplace again. We want to make it a major destination," said Anthony Catanoso, of Steel Pier Associates. "We're really excited about bringing back some of the old architecture and iconic features, along with new rides. We have what we believe is the perfect balance between the old and new."


With Steelman in charge of designs, the owners plan to blend some of the pier's historic flourishes that resonate with aging baby boomers with all-new attractions appealing to a younger generation of customers.


This summer will see the return of the legendary diving horse act, one of the pier's centerpieces in years past. A horse will plunge into a 12-foot tank of water from a platform 30 or 40 feet up while spectators watch from an amphitheater at the ocean end of the pier, Catanoso said.


About $20 million in pier improvements planned for this year include new amusement rides, arcade games, food and beverage outlets and party areas. In addition, new lighting, signs and a fresh paint job will spruce up Steel Pier's main entryway. The cleanup will include the enclosed skybridge that connects the pier to Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort above the Boardwalk.


"There will be a new look, a new feel. It will be a complete cleanup of the infrastructure," Catanoso explained.


Those upgrades will be followed in the next three years by a more extensive overhaul, done in three phases, that will turn the now-seasonal pier into a year-round entertainment complex.


In 2013, as part of the first phase, thrillseekers will be tantalized by a new roller-coaster and a combination watchtower and carousel-style ride, called the Star Flyer, that will soar 385 feet into the air, Catanoso said. "The Star Flyer will be the largest of its type in the world," he said.


An expansion project that includes a new building will complement the new rides in 2013. A new food court and arcade area will be tucked inside the building, allowing them to operate year-round.


Also planned for 2013 is a new nightclub that will operate in the skybridge above the Boardwalk. The Steel Pier investment group also bought the bridge from Trump Entertainment last year.


The second phase of the renovation project, set for 2014, will see more of the pier's attractions and rides covered up as the amusement park continues to evolve into a year-round complex. This phase includes plans for a new museum, retail-entertainment space and a Ferris wheel that would tower 250 feet high. Some of the 42 gondolas on the Ferris wheel would include plusher, climate-controlled "VIP" enclosures that will seat up to eight people and accommodate special events, such as weddings.


The third and final phase of renovation stretches into 2015. At that time, the owners plan to re-create the famed Marine Ballroom. The old ballroom hosted Steel Pier's concerts and big-name performers - Frank Sinatra, 1950s heartthrob Ricky Nelson and the Rolling Stones, among them - before it was leveled by a 1969 fire.

The new version of the ballroom will have 2,000 seats and a stage. The seats will be movable, allowing the ballroom to alternately serve as a dance hall, concert arena, wedding chapel and corporate events center.


"We think it will be the hottest wedding destination on the Eastern Seaboard," Catanoso said. "You won't have views anywhere else like it."


The original Steel Pier, dating to 1898, was a wooden structure that jutted much farther out into the ocean than today's nearly 1,000-foot amusement park. In the pier's heyday in the early and mid-1900s, huge crowds were drawn by vaudeville acts, headliners, concerts, movies and animal oddities such as the diving horse.


The 1969 fire shortened its length by about a third. The pier burned again in a 1982 fire. Under a lease with the Catanosos, it reopened in 1992 as an amusement park atop a flat concrete structure.


The pier owners are discussing a $6 million loan from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the state agency that oversees the city's new Tourism District. Catanoso said an application is being made for the CRDA funds.


The CRDA loan will help leverage private financing that the owners plan to obtain to renovate the pier, Catanoso said. The pier project was granted preliminary approval Wednesday, after the CRDA board also approved a new master plan that guides development in the Tourism District.


"It gave confidence for the project to move forward," CRDA Chairman James B. Kehoe noted of the pier's preliminary approval.


Approval of the pier's CRDA loan is expected at the authority's Feb. 21 board meeting, Kehoe said. He added that Steel Pier is the type of project envisioned in the new master plan to broaden Atlantic City's appeal as a tourist destination.


"I think it's a great first step of a component that will give you something to do, when you're in Atlantic City, that is not casino gambling or shopping," he said. "I think it can be very helpful to that part of the Boardwalk. It can bring different people into town who are not coming now."

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And here is an interview with the owners. This also ran in the Atlantic City Press.




A conversation with ... the new owners of the Steel Pier

Posted: Sunday, February 5, 2012 12:45 am | Updated: 9:40 am, Sun Feb 5, 2012.

By KEVIN POST Business Editor


After leasing the famous Steel Pier on Atlantic City's Boardwalk for 20 years, the Catanoso family and partners bought the amusement property in August.


Anthony Catanoso, of Cape May Court House, and William Catanoso, of Cape May, recently talked about plans to extensively upgrade the pier, develop its spectacular skybridge and lead the revival of family entertainment in Atlantic City. Other partners of Steel Pier Associates include Charles Catanoso, of Lower Township, Ed Olwell, of North Cape May, and Paul Steelman, the Las Vegas-based entertainment architect who designed the Sands Macau in China and the expansion of Harrah's Resort in Atlantic City.


Click here to go to a special page featuring stories and video of the Steel Pier


Q: How big a part should non-gaming, family attractions play in the marketing of the new Atlantic City?


A: Anthony Catanoso - They should play at least a 50 percent role in the marketing of Atlantic City going forward. Right now, our distinction as a resort is the beach and Boardwalk, and the venues like ours. You just don't have that in the competing markets, the emerging markets in New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania. They can never replicate what we have here. They're not making any more beaches, and they can try to make boardwalks all they want, but they're never going to duplicate what we have here. Going forward, I think the non-gaming aspect is the way to draw a distinction between us and the other competitive markets.


Q: What does the city need to do overall to unleash the potential of Steel Pier and the rest of its tourism industry?


A: William Catanoso - I think the city needs to do exactly what we're doing. They need to invest in their infrastructure, they need to clean up the Tourism District, they need to relocate some things that are essential and necessary for a city like this but should not necessarily be part of the Tourism District. So they need to do all of that and they need to make it more accessible, make more infrastructure as far as bringing maybe ferry terminals and things of that nature, and maybe kicking up the transit where the train station comes in and the airport, kicking that up a notch. These are all the things that Atlantic City lacks right now and this is where they need to focus, to get the people here easily, affordably, all of that.


Q: Does Atlantic City have the potential to once again be a family destination resort?


A: Anthony Catanoso - Yes, absolutely. With the way the city and state government have come together, and focused their efforts and attention on making this a resort town again, it absolutely has the potential. As a partnership, we're betting a lot of money and our reputation on the fact that Atlantic City can be a destination. We've always said that Atlantic City has the ultimate family entertainment infrastructure, which is the beach and the Boardwalk. Those amenities have never been utilized to their full potential.


Q: How does the Steel Pier help diversify the city's visitors?


A: William Catanoso - What the Steel Pier does is it brings family entertainment. It brings the people back to the Boardwalk and the beach, that core of what the seashore is - amusements, entertainment, live shows, all of that, and Steel Pier is the thing that brings all that together in one place. It will be the focus of the new Tourism District because of that.


Q: Do state, city and business officials seem ready to promote non-gaming attractions enough?


A: William Catanoso - Yes, absolutely. This right now is the best time to do a project like we're doing. The state is 100 percent on board, bringing Atlantic City back to its glory. The local government is doing everything they can, and the surrounding ones, the state senators, everybody's involved in this, the tourism committees ... all pushing Atlantic City. Atlantic City is the focus point right now and that's why we're excited about doing this now.


Anthony Catanoso - For the first time in our 20-year history - and we just had some meetings with some state agencies - for the first time we're hearing agencies, instead of saying you can't do this, they're saying, how do we make this happen? And that's been a whole change, their vocabulary's changing from no to yes, and how do we make it work. That's been key for us.


Q: Besides encouraging non-gaming marketing, what other efforts do you foresee for the Atlantic City Attractions Group that you helped start?


A: Anthony Catanoso - The Atlantic City Attractions Group right now, I think, its key role will be as a voice or an advisory board to the agencies that are already in place, whether it be the Atlantic City Alliance or the tourism commission for the Tourism District. That should be the primary role. In the 1990s, when the Atlantic City Attractions Group started, there were only about seven members. We were charged with coming up with a brochure, a marketing plan, raising money - we don't have to do that now. Now they've got the Atlantic City Alliance, with a healthy budget and a great director in Liza Cartmell, and it's our goal to become a sounding board for her, an advisory board, a resource for her, to help promote and make people aware of what we have to offer. There are over two dozen groups right now we've identified as family attractions.


Q: What areas remain challenging in terms of the kind of Steel Pier development you'd like to do?


A: Anthony Catanoso - Funding is always an issue. Even though we're having great success and our project has been well received by virtually every government official and agency, funding is difficult in these economic times. Banks are still very gun shy. Atlantic City is a dicey market in their eyes because of the competing markets. But we feel very confident we're going find our funding, the funding we need. We have a very aggressive program over the next three and a half years. But that's probably the biggest challenge, convincing banks and reassuring banks that Atlantic City is a good bet.


Q: How are plans proceeding for a roller coaster on the pier and a nightclub in the skybridge over the Boardwalk?



A: Anthony Catanoso - The coaster plans are coming along very well. We're about to sign a contract probably in the next couple of months for a signature piece that would fit back where the helipad currently is. The helipad will be relocated in the future. We're looking to bring in something unique, something dynamic, and that's moving along fairly well.


We've got three or four major companies interested in developing a nightclub in the bridge area, which includes the top portion of the building that sits on the front of the pier and the skybridge that traverses the Boardwalk into the Trump Taj Mahal.


Q: Are there other additions to Steel Pier - rides, facilities or entertainment - that will be part of your three-year upgrade?


A: Anthony Catanoso - We have quite an extensive plan over the next three years. We have year one, and we have phases one, two and three, and by the end of phase three, about 65 percent of the pier will be covered, and 65 percent of the rides will have a roof. There will be several year-round inside venues on the pier at the end of our three phases.


Q: How much of Steel Pier might eventually be enclosed to make it a year-round amusement attraction?


A: William Catanoso - We're going to have probably about 154,000 square feet of indoor or covered entertainment, whether it be a museum, or the nightclub and restaurants. And three-quarters of our ride package will be under cover by the end of phase three. So the only part of the pier that won't be covered is going to be the major rides that are too big to put inside, at the end of the pier, and our amphitheater. That will be an outdoor venue.


Q: What areas of development will get the benefit of Paul Steelman's special talent for architecture?


A: Anthony Catanoso - Well, Paul is a world-renowned architect and designer. We've worked with him and known him for more than 20 years. The last several years we've done some work with him. He actually has designed a billion-dollar theme park in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. He has a wealth of knowledge, and with seven offices around the world, he knows virtually everybody in every corner of the globe as it relates to the entertainment business. He visits four or five countries each month, he's done the Steel Pier presentation, and just the other night he made the presentation in China, where there are local people either interested in being involved in the development or having a similar development in their area. His design, his knowledge, has been a great advantage for us. You'll see when our full plan goes public the type of talent he brings. Also, he's a local guy. He's from Longport, his father actually worked on Steel Pier in the '40s, and drove the boat for the waterskiing dog, Blackie. Paul has got a great love for Steel Pier.


Q: Is Steel Pier seeking to develop package deals or other joint efforts with casino hotels?


A: William Catanoso - We currently work with all the casinos in town. We kicked off toward the end of last summer our package plan with all of the Harrah's properties. We do a tremendous amount of marketing with Resorts and Tropicana, and we're doing marketing with vitually all the casinos. And this year's going to be even a bigger push because now we've developed this sort of a bus and lunch market with some of the older senior citizens. They come, they love Steel Pier, they love the stories. They grew up here, a lot of them. They come, they have lunch, they're at the ocean, we give them a ride on the carousel, on the Ferris wheel. It's just very exciting for them.


We had a tremendous air show last year. We had over 1,600 people out here, an older crowd. They watched the show, they had lunch, they did a couple of rides, and we've already exceeded that number for this year's air show in bookings.


Plus, we have something unique with our helicopter flights. We do what we call a Sky's the Limit package. It's a thing where young couples do it. They come, they have dinner at one of the restaurants in the casinos, they stay over at the casino, they come here and they ride our helicopter ride, and they spend maybe the next day on the rides. It's really exciting for them, something different, unique.


Anthony Catanoso, 53

Title: President, Steel Pier Associates

Lives in: Cape May Court House

Originally from: North Wildwood

Education: Bachelor's degree in political science from Richard Stockton College; master's degree in tourism management from Fairleigh Dickenson University; also Level 1 certified NARSO ride inspector

Prior work: Was in politics for a number of years, working for Republican National Committee. Then worked a year in Kean administation, in the Department of Community Affairs. Ran the Wildwood Convention Center for a couple of years, and then went into the insurance business. That led to amusement insurance, and started building go-kart tracks in 1986 and brought brothers into the go-kart business. Opened go-karts on Steel Pier in 1992, and took over amusements on whole pier in 1993.


A little background on the Catanoso Brothers:


William Catanoso, 51

Title: General manager, Steel Pier; partner, Steel Pier Associates

Lives in: Cape May

Originally from: North Wildwood

Education: Wildwood Catholic High School; several industry certifications, including Level 1 NARSO ride inspector.

Prior work: Manager at the Sands Casino Hotel for 13 years. Left there in 1993 for the Steel Pier.

Fun fact: The Catanoso family in 1993 won $9.5 million in the New Jersey Lottery.

Edited by larrygator
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Yay! I wasn't too impressed with the place (nothing wrong with it, just not a lot for me to do), so I'm glad they'll be improving it. I'd like to "complete" New Jersey, or at least the shore credits, after the Morey's woodie opens up. Hopefully the few I'm missing will survive until then.

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This plan sounds fantastic, Atlantic City to me is a place I went a few time sbut never really had any draw to go back, this might change that.


I have memories of being a kid and going to Tivoli Pier (the old indoor amusement park at the Tropicana) Does anyone else remember this place? They had a bizarre indoor coaster if I remember correctly... would love to see photos of the place if anyone has some.

Edited by ECZenith
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That would be a bit freaky. I like Star Flyers, I think, but that is very high. It has a lot to do with the seats. I was within the first handful of people to ride the one here in Orlando and back then the seats were single and had a small belt and a chain as a restraint. Now the seats are much less exposed, with double seats a chest restaint and seat horn. The old ones felt like you would slide right off the front and that made it pretty scary.

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Actually they'll share the honor of tallest StarFlyer with the Praterturm at the Vienna Prater which IS the same size - 117 meters.


It was opened on the 1st of May 2010.




Remember, this is all about marketing. Assuming these are the same models, they can always change the smallest thing in the design and still claim it is the "largest in the world".

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Actually they'll share the honor of tallest StarFlyer with the Praterturm at the Vienna Prater which IS the same size - 117 meters.


It was opened on the 1st of May 2010.



If we wanted to get reallllyyyyy technical, 117 meters is 383.85 feet, so 385 would barely beat it.


Either way, if it ties that one, it's still the tallest in the world, because no other Star Flyers will be taller.

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