Stockton University and Glenn Straub said they are partnering on a $500 million, eight-part plan to invest in Atlantic City, following a judge’s approval Thursday for the Florida developer to acquire the shuttered Revel Casino Hotel.The proposal also calls for Straub to acquire the former Showboat casino from Stockton for $26 million, in an apparent attempt to resurrect the school’s plan to open a satellite campus there. The university’s plans appeared to fall through last month, when Trump Taj Mahal refused to waive a 28-year-old agreement that requires Showboat to be operated as a casino.
Stockton and Straub announced their new plan Friday, known as the Phoenix Project, touting the completion of the first two steps in the eight-part plan. The statement was not clear about what exactly Straub would do with Revel, which closed last summer after just two years of operation.
“With the court’s approval Thursday of the sale of Revel to Straub’s Polo North for $82 million, and the collaboration between Stockton University and Revel, a 2-year-old hotel and casino complex constructed at a cost of $2.4 billion, Polo North and Stockton are well on the way to transforming the two properties from casinos into next generation universities and resorts,” the statement read.
The statement ticked off a long list of goals for the plan, including an airfield project, an extreme sports complex, two marinas with capacity to host super yachts, a world-class multipurpose equestrian complex and indoor and outdoor water parks. They also envision high-speed ferries and helicopter service connecting Manhattan and Atlantic City.
Meantime, Straub will deposit $26 million in escrow for Stockton’s Island Campus, as the Showboat property was dubbed after the university acquired it from Caesars Entertainment late last year for $18 million. The agreement allows Stockton to walk away from the sale within 90 days if it can’t resolve the dispute with Trump Taj Mahal’s owners.
Last month, plans for Island Campus were effectively scrapped when Stockton’s president said Trump Entertainment would not allow a non-casino use at the Showboat site. The Taj has that power under a 1988 legal covenant with Caesars.
“It is my responsibility as president of this university to make decisions in the best interests of Stockton’s students, faculty and staff,” Stockton President Herman Saatkamp said in a prepared statement. “I do not take that responsibility lightly and believe I have explored the reasonable avenues available, their risks, and their ramifications.
“In so doing I have consulted with our board of trustees, members of the Stockton family, appropriate attorneys, business leaders and elected officials.”
The deal also gives Stockton an 18-month first right to purchase or lease all or part of the property for educational facility. Reportedly, the deal could allow the school to move forward with fall classes at the campus.
The Atlantic City Council is expected to approve a redevelopment plan April 8 that would prohibit a casino at the Showboat site, according to The Press of Atlantic City. A city-backed plan that would name Stockton as a redeveloped could void the covenant, the newspaper said, but the Taj could challenge it in court.
“We believe that the redevelopment zone plan approved by the Atlantic City Planning Board and subject to a second reading of an ordinance by Atlantic City Council will resolve the problem,” Saatkamp said. “I am assured by counsel and others that we are on very firm ground should there be any legal challenges by any casinos regarding the 1988 covenant.”
He said he has worked closely with city and state officials “to take the necessary actions that will insulate us from any successful legal challenges.”
Straub’s approval to buy Revel follows seven months of tortured bankruptcy proceedings, including a series of deals that fell through or bids from buyers that never materialized. The glitzy property filed for bankruptcy last year, for the second time, after closing without ever having turned a profit in two years.
The newly unveiled Phoenix Project also includes a medical complex based on quality of life, high-end independent living facilities and an entertainment hub, according to the statement.
“A warm thank you to the people of Atlantic City for giving both boards the opportunity to work on the transition project,” Straub said. “As the name of the project signals, the Phoenix rises out of the ashes to be reborn and will evolve to include diversified collection of projects including eight parts designed to show that the American dream is still alive and well.”
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