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Astorino: Re-Discover Playland, Other Parks In Westchester

Plans are in place to make significant improvements at Playland in Rye, with hopes of having it become a facility that will be open year-round.
Plans are in place to make significant improvements at Playland in Rye, with hopes of having it become a facility that will be open year-round. Photo Credit: Contributed

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- While summer is still with us, it is a great time for you and your family to enjoy some of the country’s most beautiful scenery, right here in Westchester.  Our award-winning parks system includes nature centers, trailways, golf courses, pools and beaches and more than 50 parks spanning 18,000 acres of land.  One of these parks is historic Playland amusement park along the Long Island Sound in Rye.

Whether you are a Playland regular, a first-timer, or haven’t been in awhile, Playland offers a day of fun.  Take a stroll along the boardwalk, enjoy a round of miniature golf and, of course, have a whirl around the Dragon Coaster.

Maybe the best thing about Playland is that plans are in place to improve its attractions and preserve its ability to generate memories for years to come.  Next summer, we anticipate the park to reopen under the management of Sustainable Playland Inc (SPI).  It’s part of our plan to Reinvent Playland for the 21st Century.

While the county will maintain full ownership and control of the 85-year old, 100-acre park, SPI’s team plans to make it over into a year-round destination while preserving the Dragon Coaster and other iconic rides.

Some of SPI’s short and long-term plans to improve Playland include:

• An aqua zone, featuring a mini-water park and beach attractions; • Outdoor ball fields and an indoor field house; • Renovated indoor ice rink and a new outdoor winter rink; • A Great Lawn, that will provide enhanced public access to the Long Island Sound and add attractive multi-use space to the park; • Indoor multi-use facility, which can be rented for parties, weddings, meetings and conferences; • And new restaurants.

Once SPI submits their final Playland Improvement Plan later this month, the Board of Legislators has until the end of the year (Dec.  31, 2013) to approve the deal or SPI has the right to back away from the agreement.  I hope the Board moves swiftly to approve the plan.  This project is government at its best.  It is the public and the private sectors coming together for the benefit of the community.

SPI’s operating agreement is designed to protect Westchester taxpayers who’ve been saddled in recent years with Playland’s mounting debt and annual operating losses caused by declining attendance.  The agreement calls for SPI to invest $34 million of private capital to improve the park’s rides and physical facilities, and to pay the county an annual fee that will be used to pay off Playland’s existing debt of more than $30 million.

In addition, the eagerly anticipated Westchester Children’s Museum, a not-for-profit, will operate under the management umbrella of SPI and lease space in what was formerly a bath house.  The museum will be a celebration of childhood.  Exhibit areas will contain experiential laboratories, interactive art pieces, sculptural elements, hidden worlds, climbing structures, and physical connections to the outdoors.  It is expected to open in 24 months.

So while this year you only have until Labor Day weekend to pack in the summer fun at Playland, next year it is my hope that the beginning of a whole new year-round experience awaits for kids, family and adults to enjoy.  Have a wonderful and safe end of summer.

Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino is a regular contributor to The Daily Voice.

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