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Ferris wheel, zip line, inlet eateries eyed in Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY — Making good on its vow to seek non-gambling attractions, Atlantic City Wednesday night approved redevelopment plans that include a giant Ferris wheel and a zip line on the beachfront next to the Steel Pier, a rebuilt Boardwalk, and an elevated walkway in its Inlet neighborhood.

The plans come as Atlantic City has lost four of its 12 casinos and is trying to make its tourism-centered economy less dependent on gambling.

City Council backed the expansion of the iconic Steel Pier to make way for a 205-foot-tall observation wheel with enclosed, climate-controlled cars, and a zip-line ride. It also approved the redevelopment plan for the Northeast Inlet neighborhood.

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‘‘It’s a reinforcement of the importance of adding these other amenities,’’ said John Palmieri, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. The agency approved the Ferris wheel project and would contribute about $8.1 million of its estimated $14 million price tag through a loan.

‘‘It’s a good step forward in the ongoing effort to reinforce those nongambling sectors,’’ Palmieri said.

It is also something Atlantic City has been talking about since 2007 — the first year its casino gambling revenues posted a yearly decline after the opening of casinos in Pennsylvania ate into its customer base. Those revenues have plunged from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.74 billion last year as casinos continued to open in Pennsylvania, New York, and Maryland. Of the eight remaining casinos in Atlantic City, three are in bankruptcy.

Anthony Catanoso’s family owns the Steel Pier, where the famous Diving Horse and top bands and singers entertained millions before casino gambling arrived.

‘‘We’ve been talking about doing this for 25 years,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s one more example of an amenity we can provide that doesn’t depend on gambling.”

The wheel and its 40 cars are being built in Italy and should be delivered by December. The start of an expansion of the Boardwalk to support the wheel could begin within two months, Catanoso said.

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