Putting the Play Back in Playland

Playland doesn’t open until May 9, but on Tuesday a crowd gathered on the Boardwalk as County Executive Rob Astorino announced long-awaited news on the future of the historic park.

Published April 16, 2015 11:16 PM
4 min read

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Playland-thPlayland doesn’t open until May 9, but on Tuesday a crowd gathered on the Boardwalk as County Executive Rob Astorino announced long-awaited news on the future of the historic park.

By Robin Jovanovich

Playland-1Playland doesn’t open until May 9, but on Tuesday a crowd gathered on the Boardwalk as County Executive Rob Astorino announced long-awaited news on the future of the historic park.

“Today is a really good day for Playland. We have found a partner to work with County government,” said Astorino, who was pleased to announce that the County signed an agreement with Standard Amusements on April 13. Under the terms of this public/private partnership, Standard will: invest $25 million at the park — an upfront payment of $2,250,000 and $22,750,000 within the next five years; make annual payments to the County of $300,000, which will increase by 2 percent a year; and, once it turns a profit, the County will receive 7.5 percent of it.

In its overall refurbishment scheme, Standard plans to upgrade the restaurants, increase marketing, add rides, and, eventually a mini-water park. They share the same goal as the County: to make Playland a year-round destination, or as the County Executive phrased it, “to extend the fun beyond its current 100-day use.”

One of the best parts of the agreement, said Astorino, is that the taxpayers aren’t paying for the improvements at the park. “Standard Amusements wants to make money and we want to help them.”

pland-2Things seem to finally be falling into place at the 100-acre amusement park. The Ice Casino had a very good year under the management of American Skating Entertainment Centers, a deal signed by the County last year. The Westchester Children’s Museum will open the same day as Playland, with several new exhibits. “The Museum is an anchor of the park,” said Astorino.

The County Executive praised Nicholas Singer, partner at Standard Amusements, for his perseverance. “They weren’t initially chosen to take over the park management, but they hung in there.” (Standard was one of the finalists in the RFP process that was initiated five years ago.)

The negotiations have been ongoing and complex, according to Astorino. “We hammered out a deal that’s fair.”

Mr. Singer, who grew up in Harrison and has long expressed passionate interest in restoring Playalnd, appeared pleased with the 15-year operating agreement, which includes an option to renew for another 15 years. “We’re committed to investing in the park and restoring it to a crown jewel. It needs the right TLC.” To that end, Standard has asked Jack Falfas, CEO of United Parks, and “the best park operator in the country,” according to Singer, to oversee the operation of the park for the first year. Falfas will move to Rye.

P-3The agreement requires the approval of the County Board of Legislators, which has 60 days to approve it. If all systems are go, Standard would co-manage the park with the County starting this summer and transition to sole operator on November 1.

“There is a timeliness to this agreement,” emphasized Astorino.

BOL Chair Michael Kaplowitz, who drew a few laughs when he acknowledged that the ‘ride” to an agreement has been like a roller coaster, said everyone was looking forward to more of a merry-go-round. He stated, “We are confident we can meet the deadline. We will now step in and do our due diligence.”

Astorino thanked Parks Commissioner Kathleen O’Connor and her team for their part in signing an agreement.

In response to questions from reporters at the end of the press conference, Astorino said he was glad to give Standard Amusements the keys. “We’re looking forward to letting the pros lead. We don’t want to micromanage and we will step away from day-to-day operations.”

Shortly after the announcement, the Business Council of Westchester applauded the agreement: “Importantly, the plan provides both short- and long-term income to the County and protects the interests of Westchester’s taxpayers.”

 

 

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