The asset management agreement would shift responsibility for the operation, management and maintenance of the park to SPI for the next 10 years, with an option for an additional 10 years. If the deal is approved by the Board of Legislators, SPI will pay the county a base fee of $4 million and make annual payments of $1.2 million, which will go toward paying off the county's existing $35 million debt for the park. SPI is scheduled to take over operations Oct. 1.
SPI's "improvement plan" would create six zones within the park. The park would be open year-round and have no admission fee. Visitors would instead pay for the zones that they visit. The Amusement Zone would include the Playland's rides, such as the Dragon Coaster as well as Kiddyland and the arcade. Some rides would be removed, but new rides would be added. There would also be a Aqua/Beach Zone, a field Zone for indoor sports and outdoor fields, a Fountain Plaza Zone with restaurants, a Great Lawn Zone and a Common Area Zone.
"This is going to save Playland for a long time. Without this renovation, Playland would eventually die," Astorino said. Attendance has dropped from more than a million visitors in 2005 to 430,000 in 2012, he said, and the park has been costing taxpayers $3 million to $5 million a year in losses.
This year, Rye Playland will still be operated by the county's Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation as it has in years past. The park is scheduled to open May 11.
The county has contracted Titan Development to begin work on the boardwalk, which was extensively damaged during Hurricane Sandy but should be open by the end of May. The Ice Casino also sustained heavy damage and will likely not reopen until next year, Astorino said.
A group called Save Rye Playland has taken issue with SPI's plan. The group says SPI would remove too many rides and says Playland should primarily remain an amusement park.
Save Rye Playland has created an online petition, which has garnered more than 2,000 signatures. The group is planning to submit the petition to the county executive and the Board of Legislators at a future date.
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