Gillian’s Funland in Sea Isle City is the only new amusement park to be unveiled in the United States this year. Paul Ruben travels to New Jersey to meet owner Jay A Gillian, who also operates Gillian’s Wonderland Pier just 10 miles down the shore in Ocean City.
Based on both Gillian’s experience and his heritage, Funland is expected to succeed unlike other recent openings in the US. Gillian is a third-generation amusement park owner. His grandfather, David Gillian, started Gillian’s Fun Deck 80 years ago, and then in 1965 his father, Roy Gillian, opened Wonderland Pier.
Built at a cost of less than $2 million (€1.4m), the opening Gillian’s Funland was delayed for a month because of poor weather that stymied construction. Now, however, visitors to Sea Isle City can enjoy its 12 family rides and attractions.
“The best part of Funland is the location,” says Gillian. ” It’s the first thing you see when you cross the bridge into Sea Isle!”
The area was previously home to Fun City, a 30-year-old park that closed in 2001 for the development of beach homes. Gillian had wanted to open an amusement park in Sea Isle City for years, but the price of real estate precluded it. When the city offered him a 10-year lease on a 300ft x 80ft parcel of land in exchange for 10% of the park’s annual gross revenues, he moved quickly.
“My vision is to have a family-oriented amusement park,” he explains. “That includes continuing the Gillian tradition of serving families from one generation to another. It’s what families enjoy about our brand.”
Funland is comparable to other parks on the Jersey shore, facing the same competition: “The weather,” rues its owner. But Gillian believes it is also unique. “It’s a great kiddie park! It’s got its own personality in the rides that have been chosen and because of the location of the park.”
The mix of around a dozen attractions was supplied mostly by either Zamperla or Rides-4-U. Gillian has worked with both Len Soled of Rides-4-U and Ramon Rosario of Zamperla before and knew he could count on their help. A single concession stand sells cotton candy and funnel cakes. Gillian wanted to stay away from snacks that may interfere with other businesses in Sea Isle City.
“Yes, we will cross market in the shore region and our traditional Pennsylvania market,” says Gillian. “Families are our target market.”
Gillian’s Funland will have the same ticket prices as Wonderland Pier in Ocean City and tickets will be interchangeable between the two venues. Also featured will be the same special offers, including Two-Ticket Tuesdays/Thursdays and Wristband Wednesdays.
To economise further, Gillian’s two parks will share the services of their permanent personnel, about 20 to 24 staff across two shifts.
It may be too early to outline future plans for Funland, but Gillian admits a possible expansion “could arrive depending on city plans and the outcome of this season.”