By LIZ BUTTON
Sustainable Playland Inc. delivered its official 80-page Playland Improvement Plan as requested by the county administration on Sept. 6. However, the Rye-based nonprofit still has many hoops to jump through before the Board of Legislators will sign off on its plan to turn the park into a year-round enterprise.
Ned McCormack, communications director for Republican County Executive Rob Astorino, said the county executive sent the plan, which provides a detailed five-year outline of how SPI would take over management and operating duties of Rye Playland, on to the relevant department commissioners for comments and suggestions.
The administration now has the next 30 days to provide feedback before the plan is passed on to the county Board of Legislators for approval.
According to SPI spokesperson Geoff Thompson, the Playland Improvement Plan uses the county’s 2006 Playland master plan as a guiding document for their efforts to restore the park’s amusement zone, historically the park’s biggest revenue generator.
In the plan, SPI introduces its proposal to bring Italian amusement park ride manufacturer Zamperla’s American affiliate Central Amusements Inc. on board to run the amusement zone under SPI’s management umbrella. The ride manufacturing company can hit the ground running, Thompson said.
“I think it’s a very good fit, a really good match,” he said. Central Amusements was one of 12 responders to a request for proposals to redefine the hisotric amusement park, which was sent out by Astorino upon taking county office in 2010. The company was one of three finalists chosen, prior to Sustianable Playland being selected by the county administration as the winning proposal.
Currently, 21 ride additions are planned and 18 rides, which are, in general, less popular and in worn-out shape—but not historic—are planned to be removed, although these numbers may change based on infrastructure repair costs.
In addition, seven of the park’s rides are on the national register of historic places, and CAI will undertake restoring all of them to their original glory, mostly during years three through five.
In SPI’s proposal, these sources of revenue include the beach and aqua zone, which will also be operated by CAI, the new Westchester County Children’s Museum, a field house and playing fields for sports teams, and turning the Ice Casino into two ice rinks once the county is finished repairing storm damage.
Another factor is that the revenue from the amusement zone is weather dependent.
“If you lose even one of those [five heaviest attendance days], that’s affecting your attendance and your income,” Thompson said, so it is clear that the year-round attractions designed to draw people from all over the county and beyond are vitally important to the plan.
But despite all these changes, many county legislators are still not convinced that SPI is the right choice to take over managing the park and some predict that, on their end, the review and subsequent approval process may carry on a lot longer than the county executive might like.
The Board of Legislators, which also received copies of the plan on Sept. 6, will honor the approval process in the order it is supposed to proceed, said County Legislator Bill Ryan, a White Plains Democrat.
Ryan and some of his colleagues recently visited Luna Park in Coney Island, which is also run by Central Amusements. In contrast to Westchester, CAI did not sign an asset management agreement with New York City, but a lease, which Ryan said casts doubt on whether the agreement with Sustainable Playland is completely necessary.
The legislators hired an independent auditor to vet projections from the four finalists they had identified to run the park: Standard Amusements, Central Amusements, Sustainable Playland and Legoland, for which figures have been calculated.
But Ryan said that, as of Sept. 12, he was still waiting for the specific numbers the legislators requested from the county Parks Department in order to be able to see the whole financial picture.
Ryan said it appears as though CAI and Sustainable Playland seem to be attracting the most support from the board.
“Of course, there is another option as well; to retain control of the operation of the park and finally install competent, capable management to run it,” he said.
County Deputy Parks Commissioner Peter Tartaglia said the Parks Department has since informed legislators that the final reconciliation of expenses after the 2013 season at Playland are not typically finished being processed until some time in October.
Tartaglia said the Parks Department has given the board three sets of numbers related to attendance, revenue and expenditures “pretty much like clockwork each week.”
“We’ve given them every number that they asked for,” he said.
Since the Board of Legislators must sign off on any physical changes to the park after the county executive is done looking over the plan, the board will have until Dec. 31 to make a decision. If the 17-member legislative body does not vote on the plan by then, SPI has the option to bow out of the deal.