There’s always something to maintain in a casino resort hotel just one room shy of 1,400 in Atlantic City. Even though the building is currently closed to the public, something’s bound to leak, get dusty, need preventative maintenance, an upgrade or replacement.
Thus Al Parker Jr., the facilities director since the rebranded Ocean Casino Resort opened in 2018, can keep busy even after COVID-19 has emptied rooms and decreed all bets off until the State of New Jersey determines a re-opening date.
But nowadays, Parker only has a quarter of his team actively working in this “mini-city” that’s accustomed to teeming 24/7. Sooner rather than later it will be again, Parker assures, but until then, his time is best spent ensuring Ocean Casino Resort will again be holding the strong hand that made early 2020 so successful.
“A phenomenal February, it really was,” Parker laments to Blueprint in late April while making the rounds of the sprawling and gleaming—and eerily quiet—casino resort with its magnificent view of the sea.
“People were coming around to the idea that this is a great place even in winter. It only takes one trip to our property to convince guests. All of that was clicking until the virus. But on the flip side, it’s an opportunity to tend to some needs that can be hard to do when the place is open.”
No detail too small
Twelve shops answerable to Parker, he smiles at the notion of being likened to an NFL coach, the most successful of whom hire the best assistants and coordinators, and allow them to bring out the best in the players while being held accountable.
“Micromanaging people isn’t my style,” he says. “I’d rather hire the right person and give them the respect and freedom to do what they think is right while I oversee everything. Our shop leads and mechanics are the best at what they do.”
A self-described plumber at heart who got his start as a Local 68 journeyman, he appreciates now being able to shut off water and repair pipes without inconveniencing guests. “I’ll always be a plumber, I’ll never leave my trade,” says Parker, who’s since spent years working and learning all other trades to round his experience.
His team’s efforts to harness federal and state incentives for energy efficiency were well underway pre-coronavirus and now can be expedited.
While it might be of more concern to the owner rather than the guests, all 3,300 light fixtures have been upgraded in the parking garage, which is one of New Jersey’s largest. Parker’s in-house Local 68 electricians, led by Joe Price III, did the job, saving Ocean immensely on utility bills while capturing various rebates. “Joe Price is a great electrical lead,” Parker says. “His years of experience and work ethic was the perfect match for our team.”
Recognizes good hand
Formerly known as Revel Casino Hotel Atlantic City, the original facility opened in 2012 and after declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the second time, closed two years later—one of four Atlantic City casinos to go snake eyes in 2014.
At the time Parker was managing facilities at the nearby Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and, like everybody in the Atlantic City gaming industry, keeping an eye on the competition. Nobody relishes in the failure of another casino, he says, explaining that the local economy is based on gaming and its many spinoffs of dining, entertainment and outdoor recreation.
Impressed that the former Revel was under new ownership with a plan, Parker accepted when approached for the top facilities position in early 2018. By then, he had boosted his hands-on experience with credentials in business administration and management from Atlantic Cape Community College.
With him minding to the facilities, the then-Ocean Resort Casino—note the name—opened in June 2018, along with the Atlantic City Hard Rock, attesting that it was “game on” again by the famous Boardwalk. Only it wasn’t initially so smooth for the former facility which Parker partially attributes to the name that last year was rearranged to Ocean Casino Resort under the newer ownership of Luxor Capital Group.
“You can’t be perceived as being more resort than casino,” he says, noting that by its very nature, a ‘round-the-clock gaming palace is a high-stakes, high-rewards endeavor. “In Atlantic City, casinos come first, though you don’t have to gamble to come here.”
Winning more than name game
Whatever effect the rebrand might have had, Ocean Casino Resort got on a roll in the spring of 2019, turning a profit for the first time and since ascertaining its strength under new CEO Terry Glebocki, a gaming industry veteran who had been chief financial officer at Revel. COVID-19, of course, has interrupted the winning streak, but Parker remains upbeat that soon there’ll be need for his skeletal staff to fill out.
Much has happened on his watch, such as the installation of new elevators to make it easier to get to the casino floor from the hotel. Glass wings have been installed on the huge escalators in answer to safety concerns by some of the older customers.
Another 500 rooms are envisioned as well as expanded dining facilities, and Parker awaits the go-ahead while tending to the more humble but still essential chores of maintenance and upgrade. But it’s the same at the other casinos, and two years-plus after making the move to Ocean, Parker is glad to be here
“I left a secure job at Borgata. It was a hard choice,” he says about the post he had held for 15 years. “But I saw a lot of opportunity here and the chance to build a team with like-minded people.”
Tops on that list are building manager Jim Goodwin and facilities administrator Theresa Sturm. “Jim, Theresa and I are a true team, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” he says. “They are the best and I’m proud to work alongside them.
“But all of this could not be possible without my best friend and wife, Stacy Parker who is an incredible partner, my biggest supporter, mother, and co-worker” Parker says of the woman he married at 21 and gave birth to their 16-year-old son. “I’ve so much to be thankful for.”
More so, he adds, when it’s game on again.