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posted: 5/11/2014 6:31 AM

Atlantic City tries to reshape tourism image

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  • In this Sept. 6, 2013 photo, a woman prepares to serve a volleyball during a game on the Atlantic City N.J. beachfront before a national pro volleyball tour began there. That tour will return again this summer, along with many other free activities that don't involve gambling.

      In this Sept. 6, 2013 photo, a woman prepares to serve a volleyball during a game on the Atlantic City N.J. beachfront before a national pro volleyball tour began there. That tour will return again this summer, along with many other free activities that don't involve gambling.

 
Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Volleyball Olympians, boxing matches between police and firefighters, a sand-sculpting competition, free concerts on the beach and daredevil plane pilots are just some of the non-gambling attractions Atlantic City has planned for this summer.

The events are part of the resort's strategy to attract more visitors with events that don't involve gambling, and most of them are free. The effort is seen as crucial to the resort's future as gambling revenue continues to decline amid ever-increasing competition from new casinos in the northeastern U.S.

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The AVP pro beach volleyball tour will return to Atlantic City on Sept. 5-7. In 2013, players including New Jersey native Ryan Doherty, Olympians Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross, Jen Kessy, Sean Rosenthal, Jake Gibb, Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers, and three-time Manhattan Beach Open champion Whitney Pavlik competed.

The Fire On the Water festival will include the police vs. fire boxing match and a firefighter skills competition on May 17-18. In the Firefighter Combat Challenge, pairs of competitors dressed in full gear will race head to head as they simulate the physical demands of real-life firefighting by performing a linked series of five tasks, including climbing a five-story tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-size, 175-pound "victim." It will be held at Gardiner's Basin.

On June 29, the Atlantic City Challenge Triathlon will be held. More than 1,100 athletes have registered to take on the 140.6 mile racecourse that begins and ends in Atlantic City.

Country music star Blake Shelton is playing for free on the beach on July 31, and a second big-name concert is planned for Aug. 3. That act has not yet been announced.

Speaking Friday at a tourism seminar, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian suggested the city build a permanent outdoor stage on one of its piers to host multiple concerts each year.

"Let's take a look at what happens this summer, and maybe we should be in the business of building a permanent stage on one of our piers instead of getting all excited about one or two events," he said.

The Do AC Sand Sculpting World Cup will be held June 19 through July 6 on the Missouri Avenue beach, featuring 20 top sand sculptors from around the world.

A massive July 4 fireworks show that will be visible from anywhere on the beach or boardwalk in planned.

The Atlantic City Air Show featuring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will be held Aug. 13.

The Miss America pageant will be back in Atlantic City from Sept. 9-14, and the resort hopes to keep the month full of action by hosting a wine tasting event Sept. 27-28. It will feature 100 wines presented at multiple destinations along a one-mile stretch of the boardwalk between the Steel Pier and the Tropicana Casino and Resort. Tickets for that event go on sale in June.

Information on all the summer events can be found at www.doatlanticcity.com.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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