Westchester County executive proposes private management of county-owned amusement park

A private company would take over operation of Playland, Westchester County's landmark amusement park under a proposed deal that would stanch millions of dollars in taxpayer losses, the county executive said Tuesday.

Standard Amusements would invest nearly $23 million in Playland over the next five years and add attractions, including a water park for children, County Executive Rob Astorino said on the park's boardwalk on Long Island Sound in Rye. He said picnic areas and restaurants would be upgraded and buildings and grounds would be renovated.

The 87-year-old Playland is the largest government-run amusement park in the country. It served as the backdrop for parts of the Tom Hanks movie "Big." Last year, nearly 468,000 people visited the park, with its celebrated wooden Dragon coaster and tame Kiddyland rides.

The 15-year deal, with a 15-year option for Standard, would go into full effect next year. Approval from the county Legislature is required. The Art Deco-style park opens this year on May 9 under county operation. Prices under Standard should be comparable to current prices, county spokesman Ned McCormack said.

Westchester would get $2.25 million up front, then $300,000 a year with a 2 percent increase annually, and eventually 7.5 percent of the profits once Standard makes back its investment, Astorino said.

"It stops the losses for taxpayers," Astorino said. His office said the park lost $3.3 million last year, including debt service.

Nicholas Singer, a partner in Standard, said, "Rye Playland was a special part of my childhood, and I couldn't be more excited to play a role in its future."

County Legislature Chairman Michael Kaplowitz said lawmakers were hopeful and promised an expeditious review of the proposed deal.

A previous agreement with a nonprofit group was scrapped last year. The group's plan for athletic fields and a field house ran into opposition in the surrounding neighborhood.

Astorino said Standard Amusements has the option to install temporary athletic fields in the parking lots to accommodate spring and fall sports.