Rye Playland has been a Westchester institution since 1927. We take our children there every year, and few places have a softer place in my heart. Unfortunately, 85-year old amusement parks (even when great pains have been taken to keep current, as they do in Rye) don’t attract the crowds they once did, and the model the park operated on has been losing money for quite some time to the tune of over $3 million annually. Since the park is county owned (the only one in the USA of its kind), that poses a unique problem.
Yesterday, County Executive Rob Astorino stated that an announcement would be made on the fate of the Park, and hearing that made me bite my lip just a bit, mostly out of fear that the venerable old place would go the route of Bronx Freedomland, Coney Island or the old Palisades, which ended up being lost in whole or in part to developers.
That would stink. My kids would lose it, and another piece of my childhood would go out to the ash heap.
To my relief, Astorino has announced a very forward looking initiative to “reinvent Playland” with the signing of a $34 million letter of intent with the nonprofit Sustainable Playland, Inc to substantially improve the facility and take the model out of it being solely a county-run money suck.
Among the proposed improvements (from the media release):
- New water park
- Outdoor ball fields
- Renovated ice rink and new outdoor rink
- New Restaurants
- New entertainment facilities, including a great lawn overlooking the adjacent Long Island Sound
- New Management and fee models
More details can be found in the link above.
The easy thing to do would have been to sell to the highest bidder and let people schlep out to New Jersey or Pennsylvania if they wanted to go to an amusement park. The gutsy thing to do, in my mind, is what Mr Astorino is proposing: keep the park, invest in the future, create some jobs, and look forward with some ambition.
This is not a slam dunk; there is red tape, politics, certainly opposition from rivals, and 100 other obstacles. Without a viable option that keeps the park for future generations ( and my own children!), I don’t see why anyone would oppose, but they will. As for me, I support the initiative and hope they can get started soon so we can ensure that Playland is around for another 85 years.
And of course, I’ll just lose my youth the good old fashioned way, with crows feet and achy bones.