Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013
By TRUDI GILFILLIAN Staff Writer
WILDWOOD — Every winter, the Morey family prepares to unveil its latest attractions for summer.
The changes can be small, such as a new picnic area, or more substantial, such as a redesign for an existing ride.
Or, in some cases, they can be transforming, such as the plan for a new wooden roller coaster that will one day traverse the beach and run between two seaside piers.
“If we want to differentiate ourselves, then the tools to do that are larger, one-of-a-kind attractions,” said Jack Morey, vice president of Morey’s Piers.
This summer, plans for the pier include a complete renovation of the log flume, development of an art colony made from shipping containers, new seating and shaded areas at Mariner’s Landing Pier complete with benches that will carry QR codes for smartphone users interested in the amusement company’s history. The plans also include a “super secret” project involving software that will allow riders to keep track of just about everything they do, from the number of times they go upside down to how many rides they’ve been on.
The Moreys aren’t the only ones planning new attractions. SplashZoneWaterPark is also planning a new attraction that spokeswoman Erin Ruppenthal said would be the largest single expenditure in its history. The nearly $2 million attraction has not yet been unveiled.
The company is also planning to revamp its season pass program with larger discounts for passes purchased prior to April 1, Ruppenthal said.
At Morey’s, many of the new ideas can be traced back to trips to places such as Disney World and New Zealand and other parts of the world, but the trick is making them for Wildwood.
“We’re forever trying to sculpt an environment that can really only be found in Wildwood,” Morey said.
And while it’s still in the planning stages, discussion can’t help but turn to plans for the new coaster, a $12 million investment that would measure 100 feet tall at its peak and stretch about 3,500 feet from start to finish between Surfside Pier and the former Hunt’s Pier.
“The beach crossover is definitely iconic,” Morey said. “It will be scenic to ride it and scenic to watch it.”
The coaster has been in the works for several years, and once word leaked that the company was planning to build the new attraction, the calls started coming.
How often does he hear from coaster enthusiasts about the ride? “Too often,” Morey said. “I almost wish we would have kept it secret.”
Plans for a new coaster began as Morey and his brother, Will, president of Morey’s Piers, talked about what they could do next.
Will Morey also is chairman of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, a volunteer position once held by Wildwood amusement icon Bill Hunt. Hunt was one of the early amusement pier operators, purchasing what was then Ocean Pier in 1935 and creating Hunt’s Pier, which featured a roller coaster and Ferris wheel, among other rides.
“We wanted to do something big. We were due. Then the question was, what should it be?” Jack Morey said.
The brothers and other company representatives regularly travel to amusement parks around the world looking at what works and what doesn’t.
Trips to parks in England and Spain led to the idea of a spinning coaster, but “we couldn’t make it fit right,” Jack Morey said.
They then turned to the wooden roller coaster, a combination of a traditional seaside attraction built with modern engineering.
“So we chose wood, and then we fought like dogs on how to do it,” Jack Morey said.
The fight led to a coaster that will move between two piers and make use of a tunnel, complete with dark spots under the pier, and the scenic views provided by the island’s expansive beach and Boardwalk.
“The high-thrill family ride,” Jack Morey said, “merges the past and future together.”
“It’ll appeal to kids who are riding a coaster for the first time. It’ll appeal to coaster aficionados, and it might be their 10,000th ride,” he added.
Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said the new coaster is bound to be a draw that sets Wildwood apart in a competitive tourism market.
“I think it’s real important that you’re always trying to be a leader. Anytime you can be a leader with attractions it’s important,” Troiano said.
Cape May County Director of Tourism Diane Wieland said new attractions in Wildwood generate excitement and visitors.
“It’s always good because people are looking for something new and different,” she said.
The name of the new attraction, however, is still on the drawing board.
Jack Morey offered two options, jokingly calling his brother’s suggestion the more boring one.
The Boardwalk Flyer is Will Morey’s idea, he said. The Wildwoody is his.
Great Coasters International Inc., based in Sunbury, Pa., will manufacture the ride.
Now, the question is when can construction begin?
“It is likely we will decide sometime in the middle of summer,” Jack Morey said. And once construction starts, it should take about a year and a half to build.
“It’s about overall confidence in the business climate as well as being satisfied that we have appropriate long-term unified plans for parking,” Jack Morey said.
Parking is a concern, particularly because the pier operator expects the new coaster to draw a significant number of new visitors.
A feasibility analysis by Economic Consulting Services anticipated an increase of 300,000 visitors to the island over a 10-year period, and those new visitors will need places to eat, shop, stay and park.