Plans for the placement of a boardwalk, concert venue and restaurant were unveiled during the March 20 Oceanport Council meeting.
OCEANPORT: There are big plans in store for Monmouth Park with the aim of making it a year-round destination for residents and visitors to the area.
A concert venue, boardwalk-style pavilion and restaurant will all be added to the park by May, 2015.
“We’re excited about this and we think it will be good for the town,” Dennis Drazin adviser to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA) and Darby Development Sports Betting said during the March 20 Oceanport Council meeting. “We’re trying to create a destination here in Oceanport.”
“We want Monmouth Park to be able to not just be used during the racing season but make it more like an all-year round place to go,” Drazin added.
The NJTHA signed an initial 5-year lease with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority in 2012 which includes three 10-year extensions. The operating lease helps protect Oceanport’s tax payment and repayment of a $23 million loan for environmental remediation.
Drazin said he initially thought to do concerts in the current grand stand, but was told by planners that it would not work.
“We talked to two of the leading (entertainment) companies in the world, Live Nation and AEG, and both of them agreed that we need to create our own venue,” Drazin said.
The $10 million project will have a roof, and seat over 7,000 people. It will be located to the side of the miniature golf course.
Drazin also envisions a boardwalk on the Monmouth Park property.
“The boardwalk is going to extend from the current area where you enter the race track by the picnic gate all the way down to the mini golf,” Drazin said. “It would be wide so enough so we can have some concessions and stands and add bathrooms and it will serve as a boundary between the concert venue and the picnic area.”
The timetable for opening the concert venue and boardwalk is May, 2015.
“We will not have this open in time for this upcoming season,” Drazin said.
That might not be the case for the proposed Monmouth Park restaurant, which be located between the concert venue and the miniature golf course and could open by the end of the summer.
“The restaurant is going to be (open) all year round, and it will be two different types of foods,” Drazin said. “You’re going to have the hot dog-hamburger-french fry type of food to service the kids at the golf course, and then you’re going to have an upscale, first-class gourmet-type restaurant.”
Drazin said he is leaning toward gourmet Italian food and that he has been in contact with several restaurants, some local and others that are not, to run the food operations.
Drazin said he will soon be making a decision on whether the restaurant will open at the same time as the concert venue and boardwalk or have it open by Labor Day.
“My preference is to get (the restaurant) open (this year) and if I have to spend a reasonable amount of extra money, I would like to see them go forward this," he said.
Some issues with connecting utilities to the site that could determine whether or not that will happen.
Drazin said either a new entrance to Monmouth Park on Port Au Peck Avenue could be created, or that an existing entrance to the park will be used for future restaurant and concert venue patrons.
Mayor Michael Mahon told Drazin he should come before the Oceanport Planning Board before making any decisions on that front.
“The site planning and those particular issues, that’s where we need you to get with the Planning Board,” Mahon said.
Drazin said he does not plan on building anything at the site that the town does not support, even though the DCA has already given approval for the projects.
“If Oceanport is against us doing something, somebody just needs to communicate that to me and we will modify or eliminate the plans,” Drazin said.
Future plans for Monmouth Park include a possible waterpark, hotel and casino. Drazin said those are not in his short-term plans and that there is no timetable for their opening.