Damaged NJ amusement ride pier struggles to reopen

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. - July 12, 2013

Casino Pier officials initially said they'd have some rides operating by Memorial Day weekend. Then the date shifted to the Fourth of July. But the ride park still isn't open.

Construction delays due partly to rainy weather, and the need for extensive testing and inspection of rides, have held things up, a pier spokeswoman told the Asbury Park Press.

"It's definitely not what we thought would happen," Maria Mastoris said.

Some rides at Casino Pier should still open this summer, hopefully by the end of July, she told the newspaper.

Casino Pier has welcomed crowds to its Breakwater Beach Waterpark, Casino arcade, mini golf, carousel and games, but did not want to open its ride park with only just a few rides, Mastoris said.

Sandy devastated the historic pier, sending the Jet Star roller coaster plunging into the ocean, creating one of the most iconic images from the storm. It was removed in May.

A heavily damaged second pier at the south end of the boardwalk was scheduled for a 2014 re-opening.

Mayor Bill Akers declared the town "100 percent ready for visitors" heading into Memorial Day weekend. Now he worries the delayed opening of the ride park is limiting visitor stays and hurting smaller businesses.

"We've done our job from a municipal standpoint," he said. "We would hope the businesses would do their job so we can offer the total package for our guests."

Rides that pier officials hope to open already are positioned on the newly rebuilt first level of the Casino Pier. Though some rides are assembled, others still sit as metal stacks.

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