Jump to content
  TPR Home | Parks | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram 

Rye Playland Discussion Thread

Recommended Posts

I live in Rye, NY and grew up in Westchester County, NY. I have been going to Playland all my life. As a teen in the 1980's I worked there for five summers doing just about everything from starting out in the food concession stands to running rides. I was a manager on the Old Mill for a summer (first FEMALE!), worked the Scrambler and Spider for a private ride owner, worked as a ticket taker on the Muzik Express for another private ride owner and ran a number of other rides in the Park as a Westchester County employee, including the Carousel and the Derby. I know this park like the back of my hand. I think it's safe to say about the only ride at that park I *didn't* run was the Dragon Coaster, because back then the Park Managers wouldn't let girls run it (remember, it was the '80's and the majority of the ride operators were teenagers). I spent two winters working in the Ice Rink food concession stand while I was in High School. At the end of the summer season I scrubbed down and closed up the food stands in the Park, and in the Spring I got them ready to open. Until Hurricane Sandy decimated the back boardwalk in Oct. 2012 I walked my dog down the Boardwalk and around the entire perimeter of the Park on an almost daily basis. We are still down there on a weekly basis even in the cold weather walking the limited access areas that are again available post-storm. The Ice Rink is currently closed for repairs due to storm damage (it was announced today that the NY Rangers who used to practice there and Chase Bank are donating a substantial amount of money to pay for repairs to the Ice Casino). I am still friendly with people working there now who I worked with there 30 + years ago (I started there at age 16 in 1992 - the last of a two year contract Marriott Hotels had in which they ran it into the ground by putting a fence around it and charging admission prices).


So, to say I know this Park well is a drastic understatement. And to say I LOVE this park is totally inadequate. This Park is a lifelong friend of mine and it needs our help.


Playland, as a County owned entity, is constantly in the cross hairs of various political interests. When the Democrats are in charge it tends to be treated much more kindly. I am VERY concerned about this Sustainable Playland group and the influence they have with current Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and local Rye Mayor Doug French (both Republicans, just sayin'). I personally believe they would both very much like to see Playland completely disappear as an amusement park because it is considered to be too expensive to run and a local nuisance to have in its current incarnation for Rye residents. (You have to understand this is a tiny town, and it is right smack in the middle of a completely residential neighborhood.) It is also my belief, being a local resident and watching the way some of the members of this "Sustainable Playland" group operate in other local matters regarding parks, that their plan has far more to do with their own personal agendas as local home/property owners than any long term vision for Playland as an historical landmark and Amusement Park. There is an element of "social climbing" going on here. Understand that Rye is a VERY expensive place to live, homeowners here pay INSANE property and school taxes in addition to the exorbitant housing prices.


The problems with a number of our Sound Shore communities here in Westchester now is that there is an element of residents who purchase expensive homes here in "good" school districts, stay long enough to get their kids the education they want them to have in order to get into "good" colleges, get involved in local politics for limited amounts of time, make long term decisions for the community based on what's best for THEM..NOW, tend to ratchet up school budgets like there's no tomorrow and don't really need to care about the long term future of the community because they know their life plan is to sell that house for as much of a profit as they can when their kids are done with the local school systems and go live somewhere less expensive. Leaving the life long local residents - the folks with ROOTS here - holding the bag. They didn't grow up here and they have no intention of growing old here. It's an opportunistic attitude and it affects the life long local residents negatively in many ways across the board. There is a very strong element of that going on here with this local group who has come up with this 'Sustainable Playland" idea, believe me. And if you think this town needs any more sports recreational facilities or playing fields, think again. WE DON'T.


They have a loud voice and a lot of money and the support of too many local politicians. But the fight is not over, despite what many newspaper articles would have you believe, it's really only just begun. The problem is that few Westchester County Residents seem to know about this issue. I hear a lot about it because I am local to Rye. Outside of tiny Rye, it's not well publicized. If it were, I'm sure there would be more outcry about Sustainable Playland's ideas. I am trying to work on that.


I was at a meeting at Westchester County Center last night hosted by the Westchester County Board of Legislators. There are FOUR proposals on the table, Sustainable Playland's being only one of them. Somehow "LEGO LAND" managed to get themselves a seat at the table and I have to tell you the presentation they gave bordered on the ridiculous (at one point my head was in my lap to muffle my guffaws) so I cannot fathom that anyone is going to give them any serious consideration. As of right now, no matter WHAT County Executive Rob Astorino wants (and there are many locals who are convinced that he and his cronies have their sites set on eventually razing the entire thing and selling it off for development - waterfront property comes at a premium around here, it's worth so many millions I can't tell you), Sustainable Playland DOES NOT HAVE THE CONTRACT. It is still being discussed by the County Board of Legislators and may very well go in another direction. There are two other entities that have much experience in running actual AMUSEMENT PARKS - I suspect you folks on this site would know more about them than I do. I am completely averse to any ideas of eliminating any part of this park or knocking any structures down or reducing the size of the parking lot. The two amusement park companies spent a lot of time last night using words like, 'repair', 'restore" "restoration" "there's nothing fundamentally wrong with Playland" "Preserving" and basically showed a lot more respect and appreciation for the history of the Park AS AN AMUSEMENT PARK. That was completely absent from the Sustainable Playland presentation. The amount of rides that will have to be removed to do what Sustainable Playland wants will decimate this place as an Amusement Park and it will cause irrevocable damage. I believe it will be the Death Knell for Playland if it's allowed to go through.


If you want to keep apprised of what is going on with this, here's your best source, the Westchester County Board of Legislators. They are the ones making the decision and may actually end up suing County Executive Rob Astorino in court if he tries to go ahead with Sustainable Playland without their agreement.





The other two groups interested are:

Central Amusements/Zamperla (http://westchesterlegislators.com/pdf/PlaylandPresentationCAI.pdf)


Standard Amusments (http://westchesterlegislators.com/pdf/PlaylandPresentationStandardAmusements.pdf)


I tend to lean towards the Central Amusements proposal because it doesn't call for any "fields" or anything (there isn't anywhere to PUT any "fields" without taking away something else, so I just don't get this whole concept unless they remove the Picnic Grove, which is traditionally always seriously under utilized and right on the waterfront, about the only wasted space I can think of there). With that said, I have to really look at all this more closely and do more of my own research.



I'm interested in any input anyone from this forum may have to offer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

^If you don't mind elaborating, what of Legoland's proposal was ridiculous? Without seeing the details, we here are only able to judge based on what we know of the brand, and having seen how they successfully revived Cypress Gardens to become Legoland Florida while keeping the soul and essence of the park intact, I have a lot of faith in that group.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, here's the Legoland proposal:




There's a pretty clear difference in the proposal content from Legoland and the ones from Zamperla and Falfas' group - those two actually had content, suggested organizational charts, showed concepts for future expansion, discussed budgets, etc. Legoland's doesn't seem to have any of that, but does have pictures of the Legoland Malaysia map.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Dirk for posting that and pointing out the lack of attention to detail in the Lego Land proposal. That's pretty much what the live presentation was like. The woman sent to give it clearly knew absolutely NOTHING about Rye Playland or it's unique past and history. It was a very generic presentation, poorly done and disorganized. She was not able to answer any questions without the answers coming from a template. I cannot recall specifics now, but as I listened I realized their idea is to take this majestic Art Deco museum and turn it into a Lego Land. Which is absolute blasphemy and obscene. Lego Lands may be great parks for kids for what they are, and I'm sure they can be a lot of fun but there is no way their model is appropriate for Rye Playland. It's just not. There was also too much talk of making drastic changes to structures etc. and no talk of restoration, preservation or appreciation for the historic nature of the Park. She was almost laughed out of the room. All she could keep coming back to was to keep throwing out the words "FAMILY" and "FAMILIES" as if they were buzz words that were going to catch everyone. And she just kept saying over and over again how it would be geared towards children ages 2 to 12 because "Children deserve it". It really was a joke. Whatever they've done in Cypress Gardens may or may not be great, but it ain't gonna work at Rye Playland, I can tell you that. The other two Amusement Park companies had much more thorough presentations about the plan for upkeep, maintaining the knowledgeable staff already there (very important to me personally as I know many of them and understand that because these people have been caring for the park their whole careers as "Lifers" sort of, they KNOW THIS PARK and how it works and they KNOW THESE CLASSIC RIDES and how to take care of them). Playland is so old, it isn't just your average amusement park. And that's part of the problem. It needs a lot of special TLC and it needs to be run by people who GET THAT. It's a very unique animal. Lego Land's presentation just came across as if they didn't have a clue. It was just so far off the mark in every way from what everyone else in the room was talking about that people were either looking horrified or laughing.


Here are the notes I took while listening to her:

Lego Land

Padia Company ("Pay-dee-uh")


WTF????!!!?? SERIOUSLY????!!!!

A lesson on how to play with LEGOS ???? We all KNOW how to play with Legos!

Awful presentation


Bad joke

History of Legos whoo hoo how about a history of PLAYLAND?


While this was going on I was texting friends located elsewhere in the room to ask "What is this company even DOING here wasting our time with this???" And they agreed with me.


In contrast, here are the notes I took for Standard Amusements as they were giving THEIR presentation: (often noting points they were making)


Who has cash on hand NOW for these projects? (they do)

Who will work with existing workers and appreciate their experience

It's a standard investment firm with $500,000,000 in capital focusing on amusement industry interests

Nick Singer - local guy Harrison resident loves Playland, knows it well, grew up going there (he was the presenter)

They believe there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Playland (Sustainable Playland and Lego Land sure do!)

Want to RESTORE Playland with no radical alterations

$25,000,000 commitment to the venture and they HAVE the financing

Want to EXTEND season

Current employees and workers will keep their jobs

Playland is the largest summer youth employer in Westchester County they GET THIS, Lego Land wants to DECREASE operating hours and season

SAFETY focus

Increase marketing to $2 million a year (from its current paltry $600,000 with Westchester County)

They also propose soccer and playing fields (I don't see why this is necessary, we don't need it or have room for it, I think this portion is pandering to those who support Sustainable Playland, but these guys suggest being able to do that without eliminating any of the parking lot or rides - Sustainable wants to eliminate HALF the parking lot and pretty much all the rides BUT the historic ones like the Dragon Coaster, the Carousel and the Derby and a small handful of others).


My notes on Central Amusements presentation were not as copious but included things like:

Re-do mini golf

RESTORE the Bathhouse

Renovate the Pool

KEEP AS IS/Just refresh the park

22 NEW ATTRACTIONS (no talk here of eliminating 50% of the rides)


More $ for MARKETING

5% of revenue earmarked for preservation

Their web site is http://www.keepitplayland.com


I hope this helps you understand better what was brought to the public for review the other night. Seriously, Lego Land was an absolute joke.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I forgot to mention that the other really serious problem with Lego Land's proposal as presented live was that it's my understanding there are substantial portions of the park that they do NOT want to oversee, such as the pool, beach, bathhouse, and the Children's Museum they have been trying to complete in unused buildings on the boardwalk for years - oh and include the Ice Casino in that list. It they aren't willing to take on the whole enchilada (and it's a COMPLICATED enchilada that *does* indeed involve a lot MORE than just the amusement rides), they shouldn't have even submitted a proposal. Westchester County would still have had to worry about running all the rest of it, which completely defeats the purpose of hiring another company to outsource the management of the WHOLE PARK to.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Boardwalk was NOT destroyed by Sandy. The BACK BOARDWALK, a portion of the whole thing it that ran BEHIND the rides and along up to the lake (which Lego Land ALSO doesn't want any part of) was decimated and no longer exists. The FRONT BOARDWALK is intact and just in need of some repairs, believe me it's still there I look at it every day. I will see if I can post pics for you. The Pier suffered extensive damage but all the repairs are going to go ahead, it was announced a week or two ago that the money is now in place to do this (there was of course a lot of arguing over FEMA money etc. - everyone in the NY/NJ area is dealing with that crap after that hurricane).


Here is a link to a recent article on this issue from our local Westchester paper:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Trying to look at that video but it's apparently set to private.


And thanks for all the info so far, DizzyDeeds. I'm from New England but I've not yet had a chance to get to Rye Playland; I had to cancel both attempts to get there so far. Looks like I'd better make sure I get there this summer, just in case...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been there once. Dragon Coaster is good fun, but everything else is pretty meh. I don't like the layout of the park that much. It would be cool to have a Legoland close by, but honestly there isn't much you could do to that park, at least in my opinion. I'd love to be proven wrong.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...



It appears that Sustainable Playland has been chosen to control Rye Playland for the next 10 years. I'm worried that this entity is more concerned with increasing property value for the neighbors than long term vitality for the park, but we'll see.



Tentative 10-Year Deal for Operation of Playland Park

Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 | Updated 4:14 PM EDT


A private partnership has tentatively agreed to manage a county-owned amusement park for at least the next 10 years.


Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said Thursday that the money-losing Playland park in Rye could be taken over on Oct. 1 by Sustainable Playland Inc.


However, the company can pull out if approvals are not in place by Jan. 1.


Some approvals must come from the county Legislature. Some members have claimed Astorino has frozen them out of the negotiations.


Astorino announced in October that he had chosen Sustainable Playland after a competition. The group's plan includes keeping Playland open year-round, retaining its historic rides and adding sports fields.


Westchester could receive up to $1.2 million annually.


The art deco amusement park is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm very disheartened by this news. The only good news is that they don't take over until October so we have one more summer of the park in it's current state. I've already expressed my concerns about this group on the last page, I have no idea how they managed to screw this up so badly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Now, now, Sustainable is not in the clear just yet.




Everything positive is below the red line.


Playland’s days as a county-run fun park could be ending.


County Executive Robert P. Astorino announced that he has reached a 10-year agreement with Sustainable Playland Inc. (SPI) to run Rye Playland and take it off the county’s hands.


Several key county legislators remain skeptical.


SPI will take over the county-run park on Oct. 1, assuming all approvals are met, including from the county’s Board of Acquisition and Contract. SPI plans to invest $34 million in the park.


“Not only will the Dragon Coaster and the other historic rides be preserved, but the attractions will be expanded to make the park a destination for families year round,” Astorino said in a statement. “We have the vision and expertise in place for Playland to thrive for generations to come.”


Under the agreement, SPI will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of both the amusement area and the surrounding 100 acres of parkland. Proceeds to pay the county, maintain the grounds and make improvements will come from equity investments from the operators, fees SPI charges its operators, revenues generated by the attractions run by the operators, and other revenue such as parking and sponsorships.


“The SPI plan is designed to preserve, restore and enhance the historic character and qualities of Playland, including the historic amusement rides, the classic buildings and the landscape,” Kim Morque, president of SPI, said in a statement.


Democratic legislators said they were not ready to support the agreement, saying they have not read it and questioning whether it violates the county charter. According to an opinion by County Attorney Robert Meehan, the legislators must approve any major changes made to the park.


“The Astorino administration said its goal was to stop losing money at Playland, but Sustainable is not the way,” said Majority Leader Pete Harckham (D-Katonah). “From what we have seen and heard during numerous committee meetings held on the subject, Sustainable is the least competitive financially. But most importantly, this agreement essentially privatizes county parkland.”


Harckham said the other three finalists – Central Amusements International, Legoland, and Standard Amusements L.L.C. – are capitalized and ready to invest in Playland. He would like the administration to work with the board on this process.


“Let’s work successfully and collaborate,” Harckham said. “Let’s finish our review. Let’s work collaboratively to come up with the best proposal for residents and taxpayers. We have a lot of questions about Sustainable Playland.”


While the administration wants this done as soon as possible, Harckham said it’s simply not fair to rush.


“The administration has taken over two years,” Harckham said. “To put gauntlets and deadlines on the board is unfair to the process. We need to do due deliberations. We are almost complete with our analysis. We have to make sure we come up with the best product for Westchester.”


Legislator Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining), chairwoman of the government operations committee, said she doesn’t think SPI’s plan is financially secure.


“They are a not-for-profit shell corporation that’s subleasing to vendors,” Borgia said. “Westchester does not get its money until those areas are profitable. It’s very risky financially.”


Borgia also criticized SPI’s plans to reduce the size of the parking lot and amusement park.


“Their plan just doesn’t make sense,” Borgia said. “There are more financially viable options on the table. This is too important for political jockeying.”


Geoff Thompson, a spokesman for SPI, said that Astorino’s announcement was a major step forward for the project.


“We feel our plan is the right and smart approach that addresses the issues that confront Playland,” Thompson said. “We have a year-round plan that’s balanced.”


Thompson said their plans will make the park accessible by being open year-round and allowing the community free access.


“This can be profitable,” Thompson said. “It will help taxpayers by lowering the debt.”


Donna Greene, a spokeswoman for Astorino, said the county executive stands by his selection of SPI.


“We had a committee of experts evaluate this,” Greene said. “The county executive wouldn’t recommend it if he didn’t think it was a good plan.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Opening Day Report:

Small crowds to start the day. For once I was watching the speeches made by the county officials very closely. When Astirino came up there were cheers from the entire crowd. He began to talk about "reinventing" the park for the 21st century. The crowd erupted into whispers and discussion. However, Astirino never mentioned Sustainable. He probably would have gotten kicked out if he did by all the Playland enthusiasts that were there!

All the rides were operating and in good shape. Dragon was running one train. Bumper Cars had 40 out of the 60 cars on the track which was odd. Go-Karts had 10 cars, and they all stayed on-track the entire day. It t-stormed at 4 which made crowds non-existent. I got the front seat of the Dragon Coaster twice in a row! Everything was walk-on! Best Opening Day in the 4 year's I've been going.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For anyone familiar with the park, how are weekend crowds at this time of year? I'm thinking of going this weekend, but with the $15 ride-all-day special they're offering, I'm expecting that it might get bad. I don't know what kind of wait times the park usually builds up, though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm still bummed that Rye didn't choose the CAI Amusements or Legoland proposals. The notion of adding to and upgrading the park just seems like a more solid idea than downsizing for the addition of giant grass lawns.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aww, just noticed Quassy is closed this Saturday. I was hoping to get there on the way to Rye Playland for the Wooden Warrior credit...maybe I'll just wait til next weekend to get both at once.


Strange to have the park randomly closed for one saturday, though...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...

Important Information

Terms of Use https://themeparkreview.com/forum/topic/116-terms-of-service-please-read/