Rye Playland Saga Ends With New Management Deal
John Jordan | May 2016
WHITE PLAINS—A six-year process to form a public-private partnership to save the storied, but money-losing Rye Playland amusement park finally came to an end on May 2nd when the Westchester County Board of Legislators overwhelmingly approved a deal with New York City-based Standard Amusements.
The Board of Legislators voted 13-4 in favor of the deal that will require Standard Amusements to invest $30 million in improvements to Rye Playland in return for a 30-year management contract of the 280-acre property. Those improvements include new rides and attractions, as well as upgrading food choices, picnic areas, and restaurants and renovating grounds and buildings. Westchester County has agreed to spend $32 million for 11 capital projects to rehabilitate the infrastructure at Playland, including rides, gaming and concession improvements, as well as shoreline rehabilitation. Westchester County remains the owner of Rye Playland.
“We started with a blank piece of paper for how to save Playland six years ago,” says Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino. “Now we are taking a historic step forward. The capital, the operator and the vision are in place to protect both taxpayers and the Dragon Coaster for years to come.”
The battle over the future of Rye Playland has lasted six years. The county issued an RFP for a developer to revitalize the park back in 2011 and the county signed a memorandum of understanding in 2012 with Sustainable Playland, which bested 12 respondents of the RFP. In April 2013, the county signed an asset management agreement with that firm. However, in June 2014 the county abandoned the $34-million project after it failed to secure sufficient support from the Westchester County Board of Legislators.
In addition to the rancorous debate over how to redevelop Rye Playland, the park sustained millions of dollars in damage from Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Westchester County spent nearly $5 million to restore the Ice Casino, which was closed for two years for repairs. In April 2015, the county introduced a new plan by Standard Amusements to revitalize the park, which ultimately secured Board of Legislators approval to proceed.
“To have the opportunity to take a place that meant so much to me throughout my childhood and help restore it to a condition that ensures generations of children to come will be able to enjoy it as I did, is really a dream come true,” says Standard Amusements partner Nicholas J. Singer. “I cannot be more thankful to County Executive Astorino and the Westchester Board of Legislators for their vote of confidence and their partnership throughout this process. This is a wonderful day for Westchester,” added the Harrison, NY native.
Standard Amusements will pay the county $2.25 million up front and invest $27.75 million within five years into refurbishing the park. The firm will make annual payments to the county starting at $300,000 and escalating 2% a year. Once Standard Amusements has recouped its initial investment, the county will participate in a sliding-scale profit sharing agreement, county officials state.
Rye Playland will open for the season on Saturday for its 88th season. The park first opened to the public on May 26, 1928.
Photo Caption: Rye Playland’s Dragon Coaster