Permanent stage on A.C. beach

Originally Found in Press of Atlantic City

Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2015 10:00 am

acconcertATLANTIC CITY — Basking in the glow of this week’s Maroon 5 concert, Casino Reinvestment Development Authority officials Tuesday said they’re entertaining the prospect of building a permanent stage on the beach.

But they’re keeping one eye on the horizon and the other on a proposed law that could snuff out any hopes CRDA board members have of continuing to bankroll big-ticket events such as Sunday’s Maroon 5 show, said to have attracted 50,000 people.

A permanent stage “makes it very easy to schedule five or six of these over the summer,” Board Vice Chairman Robert Mulcahy III said during the CRDA’s monthly board meeting Tuesday.

But it “certainly is not feasible without a money source,” he said after the meeting, as officials wait to hear whether Gov. Chris Christie signs a bill that would virtually defund the agency per a measure passed this summer by the state Legislature.

That bill, one of five purported Atlantic City rescue bills awaiting the governor’s signature, calls for the CRDA’s lifeblood — the 1.25 percent Investment Alternative Tax on casino revenue used to partially finance some of Atlantic City’s most striking construction projects and events, including Sunday’s beach show — to be redirected to the task of helping pay the town’s approximately $36 million in annual debt service.

Throughout Tuesday’s meeting, Mulcahy used Sunday’s concert as

an object lesson on the power of CRDA-funded projects to stoke tourism and publicity for a city still reeling from a disastrous 2014.

“I’ve said this to Senator Whelan and to others: you have to think long and hard (about) how you’re doing this,” Mulcahy said of the notion of an IAT-less CRDA.

The question of how to use the IAT — to shore up the city’s internal finances or to continue spending it on high-visibility shows-of-strength like the beach concerts and the soon-to-open Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center — is one of the most political issues in Atlantic City.

“It would be quite a change if you took away all the IATs from the CRDA,” Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian allowed Tuesday. But the measure is critical to stabilizing the city’s finances, and CRDA would still have some access to about $63 million in income generated through other taxes, including Atlantic City’s luxury tax, Guardian said.

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