Today, 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.
Morey's Piers HistoryEdit
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. The small start-up operation was initially met with skepticism by the more established operations along the boardwalk. They considered it unwise for the Moreys to occupy so much valuable pier space with the large slide, which also blocked the view of any future attractions they would add to the pier. But people flocked to the slide, which they called the Wipe Out, and as if to vindicate their decision, two competing giant slides were constructed along the boardwalk the following season. Their success continued through the 1970 season and by 1971, they started adding more attractions including such favorites as the King Kong ride, which consisted of a 40 foot tall fiberglass statue of King Kong around which airplanes circled in 1971 and the Haunted House in 1972. By the spring of 1974, the city decided to auction the land that separated the two portions of the Morey's operation. It would not be exaggerating to say that the future of Morey's operation was contingent on winning the auction as the winning bidder could cut off access to their complex from the boardwalk. In a spirited round of bidding, the Morey's prevailed with a bid of $756,000, the Moreys won out. At last, the two parts of the operation could be unified. The pier, which became known as Morey's Pier, was immediately expanded to 80,000 square feet and several new rides were added. At the time, Wildwood was one of the most competitive amusement park markets in the world with five different operators fighting for the summer tourist trade. The Moreys sought to stand out by developing a number of one-of-a-kind attractions, including the Poseidon Adventure in 1974 and In Concert and Planet of the Apes in 1975. Planet of the Apes started with a ride on a space ship. During the journey, apes take over the space ship and land it on their home planet. From there, you are led through a walk through depicting life on the planet. Reflecting changing tastes, the ride was later converted into a Star Wars themed attraction. 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. While the purchase of Marine Pier represented an important development in the growth of the business, the Moreys had their work cut out for them. The pier had been deteriorating for years and had just 12 rides. As a result, a renovation program costing in excess of $1.5 million was launched for the 1977 season. An elaborate new front entrance along the boardwalk was built, about half of the old rides were scrapped and several flashy new ones were added. Since theme parks were in vogue, the pier's name was changed to Mariner's Landing and given a nautical theme. In 1978, the Moreys expanded each pier by 200 feet to add a new waterslide complex, while the Dante's Inferno dark ride debuted at Morey's Pier in 1980. Unfortunately one of the pier's most distinctive landmarks, King Kong, towered over the boardwalk for the final time. Initially, the park had hoped to renovate the statue, but when the big gorilla was being hoisted on a flat bed truck, the deteriorated inner supports gave out and it collapsed under its own weight. Towards the end of the 1981 season, however, Mariner's Landing suffered a setback when a fire broke out in a neighboring restaurant on the boardwalk. High winds pushed the flames into Mariner's Landing and before they were extinguished, the pier suffered $1 million in damage. But Mariner's Landing quickly bounced back, and opened the 1982 season with four new rides and a Ripley's Believe It or Not attraction. Expansion the following season focused on Morey's Pier with the addition of the Flitzer, a $150,000 family roller coaster imported from Germany, standing 25 feet high and 1,200 feet long. Mariner's Landing received a signature roller coaster in 1984 in the form of the Sea Serpent, a 125-foot tall ride that flips riders upside-down six times along just 875 feet of track. The debut of the Sea Serpent took the entire operation to a new level and the Moreys were intent on riding this positive momentum into 1985 by launching their largest expansion ever. A total of $5 million was spent to add new signature attractions to both piers. Mariner's Landing was lengthened by 95 feet to accommodate a 150-foot tall Ferris wheel that immediately became a local landmark. In addition, the old water slides were replaced by Raging Waters, a 2½-acre water park. Meanwhile, the look of Morey's Pier was totally transformed. Many older attractions such as Star Wars, In Concert, Poseidon Adventure and the Haunted House gave way to the Zoom Phloom; a Fun House; the Schlittenfahrt (German for Sleigh Express), a high speed spinning ride; and the first Katapult ride to operate in the United States. The Katapult was a unique roller coaster type ride imported from Germany that was essentially a motor driven train traveling around a circle and through a vertical loop. By now Morey's Pier and Mariner's Landing had become so dominant that many of the competitors that had doubted the Morey's staying power in the early years were starting to fall by the wayside. One of these competitors was Fun Pier, located next to Mariner's Landing. Fun Pier was actually built in 1927 as the city's convention center, featuring a 5,000-seat auditorium and a shopping arcade constructed over the beach. In 1957, Joe Barnes took over the pier, which had become rundown and added a number of high profile rides including a large monorail that traveled over the beach, a sky ride and an observation tower. However by the 1980s, Fun Pier was in decline and after two separate fires in 1984, it was placed on the market. Knowing the problems that an aggressive upstart competitor could cause, the Moreys moved quickly to purchase Fun Pier. Given its deteriorated state, the Moreys realized that its days as a major amusement pier were over and they booked in a circus and other concessions while they determined its long-term future. Also in 1987 the aging Jumbo Jet was removed, starting a long planning process to add a new landmark roller coaster to Morey's Pier. To make up for the loss of the Jumbo Jet, a number of attractions were added to Morey's Pier for the 1988 season including the Condor, along with its own Raging Waters water park. After spending several years studying alternative uses for the former Fun Pier, the Moreys decided to take advantage of the increasing interest in participatory attractions and redevelop the pier for 1993 as Wild Wheels Raceway and Adventure Pier. The pier had a totally different persona than Morey's Pier or Mariner's Landing offering attractions such as three go cart tracks, bungee jumping, rock climbing, helicopter rides over the ocean and boat tag in which riders pilot small boats around a pool and shoot tennis balls at other boats. With the popularity of the Raging Waters waterparks increasing, the Moreys spent the 1994 season expanding the waterparks. Morey's Pier received Hydroworks, a 3,000 square foot interactive attraction for kids while Mariner's Landing, constructed Shipwreck Shoals, another new kiddie area. In 1995, the Morey's eight-year quest to build a new signature roller coaster was at last realized. Seeking something that truly would stand out, an agreement was reached with Vekoma, a Dutch coaster manufacturer, to build the Great Nor'easter, a 115-foot tall, 2,150 foot long steel roller coaster in which riders are suspended below the track. Installing the $6 million ride on the tightly packed pier was a unique challenge in and of itself, and Vekoma had to work carefully to thread it over the waterslides, under the Zoom Phloom and above the Breakdance ride. The Great Nor'easter took the entire Morey empire to a whole new level, becoming even more of a regional draw. Seeking to capitalize on this momentum, it was decided to add another roller coaster and at the same time creating a signature attraction for Wild Wheels Pier. Given that a wood track roller coaster had not operated in Wildwood since 1988, it was a natural choice. The Morey's contracted with Custom Coasters, Inc. the leading manufacturer of wooden roller coasters during the 1990s, to design and build the 100 foot tall, 3,300 foot long Great White. But the improvements at Wild Wheels Pier did not stop with the Great White. A 100-foot tall Sky Ride was erected over the new roller coaster and a number of traditional amusement park rides such as a Merry Go Round and the Jersey Junkyard dark ride were constructed. By now the Morey brothers' business had grown far beyond their dreams. They were the dominant amusement park operator not only in Wildwood, but also along the entire Jersey shore and as a result, in 1997 their disparate holdings were combined under one holding company - the Morey Organization. The major addition for the year was a double monorail ride - the Sky Ship and the Sky Cycle - encircling much of Mariner's Landing and its Raging Waters waterpark. As the scope of the Morey Organization had grown over the years, the family's livelihood and the fortunes of the town of Wildwood became closely intertwined. Seeing the decline that had plagued several resort towns in northern New Jersey, the family saw itself developing a strategic plan not only for their piers but also for the entire resort. They knew that their future rested not in competing with theme parks, but with playing up the unique ambiance of the boardwalk, their piers and the community as a whole. To help formulate a strategy, Will Morey's sons, Jack and Will, founded the Doo Wop Preservation League to encourage the preservation, restoration and expansion of the Doo Wop style of architecture throughout the resort. A six-month study was conducted by a group of college architecture students and professors to locate the remaining Doo Wop style buildings, identify refurbishing and restoration projects and develop plans to preserve the 50 remaining motels from the period. The 1998 season began on a down note as Will Morey and his wife Jackye passed away within six months of each other. In 2002, Will Morey was inducted into the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the highest honor bestowed upon individuals in the industry. Expansion of the piers continued. The largest addition was the construction of Doo Wopper, a new roller coaster on Wild Wheels Pier. Another key development during 1998 was the retirement of the separate names for each pier. From now on, the piers would be marketed under the Morey's Piers name. Mariner's Landing Pier was the recipient of most of the attention in 1999 with the addition of Rollie's Coaster, a 33 foot tall, 1,100 foot long roller coaster; the Storm, a turbulent rotating ride; and Jumbos, an all new seafood restaurant. And yet again, Morey's Piers was given the opportunity to take over another former competitor, the former Hunt's Pier, located next to Surfside Pier. Dating back to 1957, Hunt's Pier established a reputation in the 1960s and 1970s as the place to go for its creative, high quality rides including the Jungleland ride, based on the famous Disneyland ride; the Golden Nugget Mine ride, a one of a kind dark ride through a man made mountain; and the Skua, a large Pirate ship themed fun house. Unfortunately, the pier began to decline under new owners during the late 1980s, and by 1991 had closed. In 1996, Hunts Pier reopened as Dinosaur Beach, a $10 million theme park. By this time, however, the competition was too stiff and Dinosaur Beach closed in 1998. As the requirements to operate three amusement piers, two waterparks and 70 attractions called for a different approach than what was required in earlier years, the Morey's decided to locate state-of-the-art maintenance facilities on Hunt's pier while continuing to invest in the other three piers. However, the portion closest to the boardwalk was filled with concessions, along with two go cart tracks and the Skyscraper. Morey's celebrated the dawn of a new millennium by adding ten new rides for the 2000 season including the RC-48 roller coaster at Surfside Pier, and at Mariner's Landing Pier - Moby Dick, a fast side-to- side ride and the Maelstrom, a multi axial spinning ride that replaced the Enterprise. 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 until 2011. For 43 years the slide was there until the Morey's decided to remove it for the new roller coaster that will span over Surfside Pier and Hunt's Pier. In replacement the Morey's bought a new ride by KMG called "it".