ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — What's an ocean without a beach?
One Atlantic City casino that takes its name from the sea doesn't want to find out, and so it's spending up to $700,000 of its own money to rebuild a badly eroded beach in front of it.
The Ocean Casino Resort began the work Wednesday, and plans to have a new 110-foot-wide beach open for Memorial Day weekend. Chronic erosion near the casino has reduced the beach to just 5 to 8 feet (1.5 to 2.4 meters) wide in places.
Bill Callahan, the casino's general manager, said Ocean can't wait for the next government-funded beach replenishment project, which could take another year or two.
Callahan and several casino officials were on their daily coffee walk one day last fall when they looked out the window — and saw very little sand between the Boardwalk and the ocean.
Callahan feared there soon would be no beach.
“That would be a horrible guest experience. It's like, ‘Come to an unbelievable $2.5 billion resort and not have a beach.’ We just couldn't have that,” he said.
So the casino set about securing the many state and federal permits necessary to do the work on its own.
Stephen Rochette, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said it is unusual but not unheard-of for private parties to carry out their own beach replenishment projects. But most are content to wait for the next round of government-paid projects, in which the cost is shared by the federal, state and local governments.
Veteran Atlantic City casino executives said they can not recall a casino paying to widen its own beach using its own money.
Ryan Burch, the casino's vice president of hotel operations, said the project will dump 12,810 tons of sand on the beach. About half of that had been placed as of Friday.
The work should be completed by next May 19. Crews will then smooth the sand, which was matched for color and grain size to the existing beach sand.
The sand is trucked in from a private company in Eagleswood Township, about a half-hour north of Atlantic City, said project manager Ian Jerome.
He said the particular spot in front of the Ocean casino has historically been the most eroded spot on all of Absecon Island, on which Atlantic City sits. Past beach widening projects have often not lasted for the full three-year period before they qualify for renourishment by the government, and some wash away in as little as a year.
Callahan said if the beach needs to be rebuilt again with private money, it will be.
“This is part of the experience,” he said. “You can't have a resort without a beach."
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