Morey's Piers represents the largest seaside amusement center in the Western Hemisphere. The sprawling complex is actually a collection of four different amusement piers strung along Wildwood's five-mile long beach and two-mile long boardwalk, featuring over 70 rides of all descriptions, two full scale water parks and a wide variety of other activities that can fill a vacation.
But when established in 1969, Morey's Piers had much simpler origins. In the 1950s and 1960s, brothers Bill and Will Morey were both successful entrepreneurs. Bill operated concessions along the boardwalk in Wildwood, while Will was a successful contractor and developer who took advantage of the development boom in Wildwood in the 1950s and 1960s changing the face of the town by building the "Doo Wop"-style motels that now characterize the town.
In 1968, the brothers spotted a giant 12-lane fiberglass slide operating near a shopping center in Fort Lauderdale, Flordia. The brothers knew that such an attraction would be a successful addition to the Wildwood boardwalk and they started making plans to acquire one of their own. Given the size of the slide, the brothers could only find one location large enough to accommodate it. The construction of a new pier and the purchase of a struggling restaurant and miniature golf complex located on the boardwalk became the site of Surfside Pier. The complex was actually two small piers separated by a swath of municipally owned land. The town also owned the boardwalk frontage, but permitted access to the piers via twenty-foot wide catwalks.
In the fall of 1975, the Morey brothers traveled to the Octoberfest in Germany for the first time. They were fascinated by the flashy European manufactured rides and knew that many of them, which were not yet commonplace in the United States, would help to further solidify their pier's position. One ride in particular caught their attention, the Jumbo Jet, a 56-foot high, 2,854-foot long roller coaster. They immediately made a deal to purchase the ride for $400,000 and it opened in time for the 1976 season, immediately transforming Morey's Pier into one of the top attractions on the shore.
As the 1976 season wound down, the Moreys heard that one of their long time competitors, Marine Pier Amusements and Playland, was for sale. Located in the heart of the boardwalk, it was physically the largest amusement complex in Wildwood, with rides and attractions spread across a 500 foot long amusement pier on the east side of the boardwalk (Marine Pier), and an entire city block on the western side of the boardwalk (Playland).
Marine Pier and Playland was also the oldest amusement facility in Wildwood, dating back to 1918 when a carousel was built on a small parcel on the west side of the boardwalk. Then called the Amusement Center, the carousel was joined the next season by a large wooden roller coaster called the Jack Rabbit, an Old Mill boat ride and several smaller rides. The pier was built in 1931 and was anchored by a 90-foot tall Ferris wheel. Despite its location in the heart of the boardwalk, by the mid-1970s, it was becoming harder for the Marine Pier and Playland complex to keep up with its more aggressive competitors, such as Morey's Pier.
While the Moreys were not looking to expand onto another pier at the time, the complex's location in the heart of the boardwalk was too good to pass up. Unfortunately, the asking price for the entire facility was too large for their budget and they struck a deal just to purchase the Marine Pier portion.
The piers continue to evolve. Camp Kid-Tastrophe, $1.3 million water play area with 1,000 gallon water bucket, water cannons and fountains debuted at the Raging Waters at Mariner's Landing Pier in 2001, while the Rock 'n Roll, a high speed spinning ride with cars resembling 1950s automobiles replaced the Schlittenfahrt on Surfside Pier. In 2002, Surfside Pier completed a $600,000 renovation of their kid's area in Raging Waters, while the Fireball Express, a large looping ride replaced the Storm on Mariner's Landing Pier. In 2004, Morey's Piers' 35th anniversary season, Dante's Inferno underwent a major renovation, while Mariner's Landing Pier's Dark River was transformed into the Pirates of the Wildwoods. Two new retail shops opened on Mariner's Landing Pier: the Doo Wop Boardwalk Museum Shop and Create-A-Bear Factory. Two new mascots were introduced on the Piers as was Zamperla's family ride, the Rock 'n Tug. Also in 2004, Morey's Piers gained an industry leading world wide web presence by introducing a comprehensive redesign of www.moreypiers.com. Despite all of the changes, the Wipe Out, the giant slide that started it all still maintains its place of honor on Surfside Pier.
Tuesday, Jan 19, 2021 at 12:00pm Eastern Time
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