a developer leading one of new jersey’s most ambitious entertainment projects sets his sights on an even loftier goal
by laura d.c. kolnoski
portrait photos © amessé photography
renderings courtesy of cardinale enterprises
Visitors to Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park in Jackson, New Jersey, may soon have something they’ve been lacking for years: adjacent hotels. And, while Adventure Crossing USA, a massive development project now in its early stages, will remedy that situation, it will ultimately offer visitors much more than accommodations.
The project, conceived as a comprehensive regional sports and entertainment complex, will be built in phases. Initial site work is underway, said Vito F. Cardinale, founder and president of Cardinale Enterprises, the real estate development company leading the project. He estimates that Phase 1 will be completed in about two years, with Phase 2 projected four years out. In addition to complementing the theme park, the development will also host a range of sporting events and serve as a venue for youth tournaments.
“After moving close to the site eight years ago, I realized the location is perfect for a family entertainment and sports complex to help feed, and be fed from, Six Flags Great Adventure,” Cardinale said. “The offerings of Adventure Crossing USA are needed not only in the community, but also in our entire state and neighboring states.” Cardinale, a Brooklyn native, lived on Staten Island for 15 years before relocating to Millstone Township.
The first parts of the project to open will be a Hilton Garden Inn, an Adventure Sports & Entertainment Dome with playing fields, and nine restaurants, some of them drive throughs. (Cardinale said he is negotiating with several national chains.) A Spring Hill Suites is also planned. Several locations on the property will have liquor licenses, including a sports bar in the Dome. In addition to retail outlets, assets will include five fully convertible basketball/volleyball courts, including a “show court” with full seating for tournaments and other special events.
Other planned features:
A flexible, multi-use turf field for sports training and practice with enough seating to host tournaments, games, and entertainment.
A multi-level Laser Tag experience, a trampoline facility, and a full arcade area.
Multiple party rooms with adjacent space for team meetings, conferences, and events.
Retail space with sports related equipment and accessories.
An ice hockey and “Winter Wonderland” facility.
Golf facility with a sports bar.
A cricket/sports stadium.
Go cart track.
In Phase 2, a banquet/conference facility and additional recreational attractions will be added. (On the firm’s website, visitors can view a brochure with renderings and animated aerial overviews.) Cardinale anticipates that 1,000 jobs will be created during the construction phase, with an additional 2,000 total after opening, adding that when Adventure Crossing USA is fully operational, it will be a vital tournament destination.
“Parents are on the road for hours traveling to take their kids to a baseball, lacrosse, fencing, or soccer event,” he said. “The new site will mean they no longer have to do this. We’ve got it all here. ”
Yet, for the developer, the highlight of the entire project is a world class research center focused on the fight against multiple sclerosis and other debilitating neurological diseases.
“The ultimate goal of the Adventure Crossing project is to help fund the research facility we hope to build on the property, which will focus on finding a cure for multiple sclerosis as well as similar diseases,” Cardinale said. “My late wife passed away from complications related to her MS; that is the driving force behind my mission to find a cure.” His family includes daughters Crystal and Amanda, along with two grandchildren, and he describes advancing research into MS and other diseases as the most important mission of his life.
It’s a quest he’s been on for years. A combination effort on the part of Dan Messina, president of Richmond University Medical Center, along with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Cardinale family, the Linda E. Cardinale MS Center at Freehold’s CentraState Hospital helps improve the quality of life for people with MS, as well as their families—assisting some 2,300 patients per year. The facility provides comprehensive care through diagnosis, education, the establishment of care plans, and individualized treatment. It also includes evaluation and consultation rooms, clinical and rehabilitation areas, a dedicated infusion center, a balance testing and audiology center, a cognitive training program, and additional clinical research space. Each year, for nearly two decades, the CentraState Healthcare Foundation has held a wine tasting event to support the center.
The medical facility at Adventure Crossing USA will delve deeper into brain research, with onsite neurologists who will work on neurological diseases including ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and Parkinson’s. And since Cardinale is also a staunch supporter of military veterans, his “brain center” will also treat those with neurological afflictions. He plans to work with other hospitals and facilities, too, to coordinate and advance care and research.
The determined developer is, similarly, working with industry professionals to hone the concept for his entertainment complex. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial and mechanical engineering from the City University of New York, and founded his company in 1983.
“My interest in real estate started as a boy,” he recalled. “I was a first generation American, and my grandparents and parents, all born in Italy, instilled a belief in me that the most valuable thing you can own, especially as an American, is land. The pride that grew in me from childhood in being an American, which still grows, made real estate ownership a goal. It is one of the few things we cannot make more of, and is therefore a great investment.” Cardinale’s firm has built and continues to build multi use retail and residential projects in the Garden State.
Among them are:
Jackson Crossing, more than 100,000 square feet of outdoor retail strip center in Jackson Township, was built about 12 years ago and includes a restaurant and a fitness franchise.
Manalapan Crossing, a recently approved over 55 residential community on 123 acres along Route 33 at Millhurst Road, which will include retail stores, businesses, and offices. The site includes a solar energy storage venture that Cardinale calls “the future, and on the forefront of the newest technology.”
Barnegat Crossings, another recently approved project, is off Exit 67 on the Garden State Parkway, and will include 148 age restricted condos adjacent to the Barnegat Crossing mixed use shopping center.
Green Leaf Pet Resorts & Hotel, located in Millstone and Oakhurst. Cardinale is a partner with noted dog trainer Shelly Leibowitz in the latter location and completed a $5 million renovation of a former fitness center there, for which he received the Shore Builders FAME Award.
Cardinale has also been a board member for various organizations (including Rotary International), is a Circle of Friends Member at the CentraState Health Foundation, and has received numerous awards for his business and philanthropic endeavors. He currently serves on the board of the Jersey Shore Boy Scouts and the Shore Builders Association. Additionally, he is a member of the New York Police Department Honor Legion and The 200 Club of Monmouth County. Each year, he, along with Randy Johnson of Laurita Winery, sponsors a fishing derby for disabled veterans and another for handicapped children at Cardinale’s home, Ponderosa Estates & Lake Julianna (named after his granddaughter).
23 South Hope Chapel Road, Jackson
732.747.7846 / cardinaleenterprises.com