As the weather takes a turn for the worse — winter as it’s commonly referred to in the Northeast — we have to acknowledge that we did have a wonderful summer.
By Robin Jovanovich
As the weather takes a turn for the worse — winter as it’s commonly referred to in the Northeast — we have to acknowledge that we did have a wonderful summer. So did Playland, the beleaguered and beloved amusement park in our backyard.
According to a year-to-date report issued after Labor Day, and provided to residents by County Legislator Catherine Parker at recent community meetings she organized, attendance at the park was way up, along with gross revenues. And the biggest jump in attendance was from Westchester residents.
In all, attendance was 467,948 for 2014, up from 390,069 in 2013. Gross revenues totaled $8,750,455, up from $7,068,481 a year earlier. More people used the pool and played mini golf, too.
Good weather, alas, doesn’t change the interest expense on the park’s debt, which is $3 million a year. The final figures for the park’s expenses won’t be available until December.
But as the County comes closer to turning over operation of the amusement parks to one of two vendors, Parker is asking for community input. At a meeting she hosted at the Rye library, she encouraged residents to share all their ideas and thoughts. “I want this to be a brainstorming session,” she said.
Parker asked residents, “Do you want an amusement park or a park with amusements?” She referred back to the City Council’s March 2011 resolution on potential uses for Playland.
Based on the findings of the Playland Strategic Planning Working Group appointed by the Council in 2010, soon after the County issued an RFP for “Reinventing Playland,” the Council identified “principles and values” it believed should be applied to the RFP. Among those was that Playland be first and foremost a public resource for the use and enjoyment of all Rye and Westchester residents. Any proposed use of the site must be: consistent with insuring public use of and access to open space and Long Island Sound; sensitive to any environmental impact on Read Sanctuary, Playland Lake, the Sound; in keeping with the park’s historic landmark status; and financially responsible and sustainable.
Parker said she would like to see something in place at Playland by 2015, but she’s worried it won’t be as the process drags on.
When asked why the County “doesn’t just try running the park well,” Parker replied a public/private partnership would be a better solution for all. Joy Reidenberg, a resident and a voice for Friends of Read Sanctuary, pointed out that the County has failed so far. (For close to 30 years, the County has lost money operating the park.)
One resident expressed concern that the park will become unaffordable. “If an operator invests $25 million in ride improvements, as indicated, they’ll raise ticket prices to high levels.”
Sending a survey out to all residents was one of the suggestions from the audience.
Jana Seitz reminded listeners that one of the goals of the community and the County is to keep the park open longer and expand its use. Reidenberg added, “That means for passive recreation, as rides can’t be year-round.”
Several residents remarked on the fact that the Tiki Bar was one example of what shouldn’t be in Playland’s future: “privatization of public space.”
Longtime resident Kim Morque, who was president of Sustainable Playland Inc., the group initially selected by the County to take over the operation of the park before residents protested the large size and location of a field house, said, “It is up to the County to come up with consensus.”
Meanwhile, the County and its legislators are reviewing the plans of the other two finalists, Standard and Central Amusements.