By MADDY VITALE
Playland’s Castaway Cove in Ocean City is on its way to rebuilding the arcade destroyed in a raging Jan 30 fire. The city’s Planning Board gave the official go-ahead this week for some improvements to the new building.
The owner of the Boardwalk amusement park, architects and engineers have worked throughout the year to bring back the popular attraction that serves as an entryway into Playland.
Pilings and other foundation work have been done over recent months. Steel pilings and concrete planks are laying the groundwork for a new arcade.
And returning by popular demand is Playland’s iconic pirate ship that had greeted customers entering the amusement park since 1998 but was destroyed in the fire.
“The No. 1 question was about the pirate ship — whether I was downtown selling tickets or people asking on Facebook or email,” Brian Hartley, vice president of Playland’s Castaway Cove, explained in an interview Saturday.
He continued, “People wanted the pirate ship back. It was a big thing to incorporate back. It was something that really evolved over time into a landmark. We never considered until now that it meant so much to so many people.”
There were no injuries in the fire and the majority of rides weren’t touched by the flames.
On Wednesday, the city’s Planning Board unanimously approved Playland’s plan to add extra space for storage and office space on the second floor of the arcade building, among other things that required variances. The footprint of the project is the same.
“They were really great to work with,” Hartley said of the Planning Board. “They put together a subcommittee first, so the meeting was really a formality.”
Meanwhile, the pirate ship may return to its place atop the arcade at the end of the summer of 2022.
And there is something else exciting that may be in store for the amusement park patrons who have made Playland’s Castaway Cove a family tradition for generations, Hartley said.
Hartley and Scott Simpson, the owner of Playland, had a new vision for the park, prior to the fire.
“Our long-term plan, before the fire happened, was to add some sort of attraction. We will continue to explore that option,” Hartley said. “We would like some sort of ride, a monorail, a roller coaster, something that will definitely add thrills.”
In addition to the arcade, Dairy Queen, operated by Playland, and tenants Hamburger Construction Company and Brume Juice were destroyed in the same building.
Hartley noted that the owner of Hamburger Construction Company has retired, leaving an opening for a new tenant. Playland will open a Dairy Queen there again.
During the summer of 2021, visitors walked through an easement at Jilly’s, an adjacent Boardwalk business, to enter Playland. Hartley hopes that even if the arcade is not completed by next summer, patrons will be able to use the same easement to enter and exit the park.
“That is something that will have to be determined later,” he added.
A timeline is not so precise when it comes to weather-dependent work and delivery of construction materials during the COVID-19 pandemic, he stressed. He said the city has been very supportive of Playland during the ordeal.
“We hope that the arcade is rebuilt by the summer,” he said. “The best-case scenario is looking like maybe late August, but it will depend on the plans, the weather and if we get all the games.”
Either way, Hartley said, Playland’s Castaway Cove will offer, as it did in 2021 and the 60-plus years before, hours of family fun with an array of rides and excitement.
For more information about Playland’s Castaway Cove, visit https://oceancityfun.com/