Dear Coaster Friends,
They say all publicity is good publicity, however the news coming out of Rye, NY is sounding crazy the last few months. Most people are familiar with Playland Park in Rye, NY from popular culture it has been in many notable movies like; The Sweet & Lowdown, Muppets Take Manhattan, Fatal Attraction, and Big. It has also been featured on television shows like the Nanny, Mad Men, How I Met Your Mother, and was even the set for a Mariah Carey music video. With its waterfront location on the Long Island Sound, easy access to New York City, and a nostalgic art deco vibe the park should have a solid standing. The fact is that its unique ownership and operating arrangements over the years have taken its toll on the park. The park itself is owned by the county of Westchester, but they are not really equipped to operate an amusement park. The county has made a deal with Standard Amusement to take over operations, but as the handover approaches both sides started bickering and trying to renegotiate their deals and responsibilities.
The unusual thing about this particular argument is that it has three sides. The county is looking to bring in an experienced operator and is hoping that with mutual investment that the parks revitalization and growth will benefit Westchester and the private business. The city of Rye feels left out of the conversation and feels their concerns aren’t being addressed and that they will endure the negative side effects while most of the benefits will be distributed around the county in an inequitable way. To add a wrench into this gear they are all public politicians who undergo election cycles, and many of the current principals have been elected after the deals were crafted with the third party, Standard Amusement. Standard Amusement wants the county to invest more than they originally agreed to, and that is causing stress on the situation as well as they try to invest less.
The new county executive now wants out of the deal and has been a polarizing figure in the press and has been very outspoken about the terms of the deal he does not like. He wants to see a bigger investment from Standard Amusement in the parks to offset the infrastructure improvements needed. Currently the county has pledged to invest 30 million dollars and Standard Amusement will invest at least 27 million dollars, however it is noted by the county executive that 7.7 million dollars is being spent on Standard Amusements overhead, that isn’t really investment and should not go towards the minimum agreed upon amount. Standard Amusement in turn has highlighted the decline in attendance year over year, the lack of investment, and has questioned the safety of the rides and food service areas. The politicians had a press day before the park opened where they gave a tour of the park to the press and then rode the rides and ate the food to personally attest to their safety. Everything was certified by the appropriate inspection agencies and are deemed acceptable. Standard Amusement has changed their tune a little recently, as telling the public they are going to die on the rides and get sick from the concessions is probably not helping for the upcoming transfer of operations. They have instead made public their plan for what the park could be in the future, and it is a solid plan.
The park infrastructure has been neglected since the 80’s and no new rides have been installed since 2008, a music express. The plan calls for a revitalized boardwalk with shopping and dining options that could be year round draws. New amenities will be addressed inside the park including concessions, bathrooms, and general aesthetic updates. Finally the reason you are reading the rides will be updated. The historic rides will be preserved and properly maintained. The flat ride collection will be updated, and the centerpiece would be to rebuild the Aeroplane Coaster. The Aeroplane Coaster is of course the most compelling part of the story. We already know that GCI was on hand at the park last summer doing inspections of the Dragon Coaster and that they have also had interest in the Aeroplane Coaster as they produced plans, an on ride rendering and model that they have shown off in the past. There seems to be a unique synergy there for these two parties to work together.
So what does the park have going for it? With so much about the future of Playland Park unknown it is tough to say, but there is a case to stay interested. They are a historic landmark with two historic coasters. They have a derby racer, a hold on for your life version of a carousel. This once popular thrill ride has been removed from modern amusement parks around the world, the one at Playland Park is one of three that survived. There is also the old saying there is no such thing as bad press, and the park has been getting a lot of press. I live on Long Island and I find myself passing this park all the time whenever I drive to points north, however I never stop in. I know I am going to pass it in a few weeks as I drive to an event. Now I am think I better stop by before this place implodes, and I think I will. I might skip the hot dogs though…