In May of 1948, the Galveston Pleasure Pier opened on Seawall Boulevard, as the largest amusement park of its kind in the country. It met its fate in 1961 at the hands of Hurricane Carla.
This May will mark a new page in the history books, when the 1,130-foot Pleasure Pier opens again — this time under the Landry's name — in the original location, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.
Preliminary planning has been in the works for years, and construction commenced months ago to fix the damaged pilings (the iconic Flagship Hotel stood in the spot from 1965 until 2008, when it was severely damaged by Hurricane Ike). Tilman Fertitta, Landry's sole owner, already runs multiple hotels and restaurants on Galveston Island, so he wanted to do something different.
"This will be a project that will totally change Seawall Boulevard," said Fertitta during an elaborate press conference — complete with cotton candy and a popcorn machine — at the company's Houston headquarters. In a room filled with news crews and the scent of fried food, Fertitta revealed mockups for the $60 million project.
Fertitta's biggest concern is where he's going to put all of the people.
Think Coney Island meets the Magic Kingdom: With carnival rides and roller coasters (there will be 16 to choose from), restaurants (including requisite turkey legs and sausage on a stick booths, plus the first Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Texas) and souvenir shops, Landry's is marketing the Pleasure Pier as a fun, family-friendly destination for tourists and locals alike.
Mayor Joe Jaworski of Galveston believes that the Pleasure Pier will bring "color, shape and sizzle to the Seawall."
"This will bring a shine and a glow that has been missing for a long time," Jaworski said.
The pier will be open year round (daily throughout the summer months, and Friday through Sunday during the off-season) and will create more than 600 jobs. Galveston-born Fertitta expects other economic activity to follow in Pleasure Pier's wake — and though Landry's already owns a large chunk of real estate along Galveston's seawall, he says he wishes the company had more.
Pleasure Pier admittance tickets will cost $8 for children and $11 for adults, or attendees can upgrade to a "Ride wristband" for full access to the pier's amenities. A family of four can gain entrance and access to rides for $90.
The goal is to create a safe, "controlled environment," one where admittance is monitored (real estate on the 6,500-person capacity pier is extremely valuable, says Fertitta) and parents can feel comfortable letting their children roam. And one that appeals to all.
"A family can be a young family or a couple that's 40 years old," Fertitta told CultureMap. He says that Pleasure Pier will offer options for everyone, from kids' games to live music on the bandstand stage.
One might immediately worry that the revamped Pleasure Pier, in its prime but precarious location over the Gulf of Mexico, might suffer the same fate as the ventures that came before it — but Fertitta's biggest concern is where he's going to put all of the people.