Nelson Mandela Bay’s iconic amusement and retail arena in exciting new phase
The Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment World in Nelson Mandela Day marks its coming of age on October 2, and in the past 21 years, has welcomed millions of visitors to experience its mix of family fun, entertainment, shopping, dining and gaming thrills.
“The Boardwalk has provided incredible entertainment, happiness, education, laughter and fun to the city’s residents, as well as visitors from around the country and around the globe, and we are excited to see what the next 21 years have to offer,” said The Boardwalk General Manager Tati Tsunke.
The Boardwalk was developed at a cost of R533-million, creating 1 800 direct and 4 160 indirect jobs during construction, which began in October 1999. A year later, on Monday October 2, The Boardwalk opened its doors at 9am with more than 18 000 people standing in line to enter the casino, which was filled to capacity within three hours. Well known guests at the grand opening included former Miss South Africa Basetsana Khumalo.
Within one hour of opening, a Kenton-on-Sea resident had won R25 000, and within a month, The Boardwalk had produced two millionaires – a sales representative from Lorraine, who won R1 027 947, and R1 054 479 to a Graaff Reinet plumber who played just R22 on a one armed bandit machine.
Within six months the casino hit the millionth visitor mark – a full six months ahead of expectation. During that time over 400 000 cars used The Boardwalks parking – an average of four thousand a day. The casino had paid out 3 874 jackpots valued at R38-million, equivalent to over R240 000 a day. There had been four payouts of more than a million rand, and five of more than R500 000.
The Boardwalk’s Amphitheatre played host to myriad of South African musical and comedic talent, from the late legendary Johnny Clegg, Just Jinger and Lira, to comedians like Marc Lottering, Nic Rabinowitz, Barry Hilton and Tumi Morake.
The beautiful lake system held 17 000 cubic litres of water, which was recycled once every three days through a filtration plant. “The lake, besides being the focal point of the development, played host to many wonderful events on its floating stage. We also installed a spectacular R30-million musical fountain, which put on a nightly musical water show in vivid colours,” Tsunke said.
On the eve of the Boardwalk’s 10th birthday, the Eastern Cape Gambling and Betting Board awarded the complex with a 15-year exclusivity license. Today it remains the only licenced casino in Nelson Mandela Bay.
To mark a decade in business, on 2 October 2010, a parade was staged through the city streets of the city, with thousands of residents, police, traffic control, fire engines, bikers from the Christian Motorcycle Association and Mclaren Circus. Children from Reach for a Dream Foundation were treated to birthday cake, rides at the Magic Company, milkshakes at Milky Lane and lunch at News Café.
On the back of the news about the gambling licence, Sun International and partner Emfuleni Resorts announced R1-billion in upgrades, including The Boardwalk Hotel, an international convention and business centre, and an expanded casino with the latest gaming equipment.
Memorable events including unveiling, in 2012, the world’s biggest birthday card – measuring 5m x 6m – for the Eastern Cape region’s most famous son, Nelson Mandela on his 94th birthday. “To mark the occasion, The Boardwalk treated visitors to an evening involving 100 dancers, a fireworks display, and the release of 94 white doves. The giant card contained 20 000 signatures from residents of the city, and was presented the former president.”
“To mark our 21st birthday, we are running the Celebrate 21 campaign until December 31, when we will give away a brand new Harley Davidson.” Including the bike, the casino is giving away over R3-million in cash, prizes and Xtra Play as it comes of age.
“With the sod turning for the new R500-million Boardwalk Mall taking place in May this year, we are excitedly awaiting the beginning of a new era for this iconic piece of real estate.” The redevelopment, extension and upgrade of the Boardwalk Precinct, which will more than double its retail space to 23 000sqm and see the addition of an apartment hotel complex, is the first phase of a 17-hectare redevelopment that is strategically, economically, and socially significant for the city and region.
In partnership with Flanagan & Gerard, Boardwalk Mall will offer 80 stores and access to national brands including Checkers and Checkers Liquorshop, Pick n Pay and Pick n Pay Liquor, Woolworths, Clicks, Dis-Chem, and NuMetro as well as The Magic Company, Spur, Fishaways, Debonairs, Steers, Wimpy, Ackermans, Pick n Pay Clothing and the Crazy Store.
“We are on track for the opening of the Mall’s first phase in March 2022, with the completion of the second phase in the third quarter of the year.”