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Sunny days brighten Playland's fiscal ride

The Journal News /

Original Article »

June 27, 2007

Summer is off to a roaring start at Playland Amusement Park.

Thanks to an abundance of sunny days and only one weather-related closing so far, attendance and revenue at the Westchester County-owned park in Rye are way ahead of budget projections, made at the start of the year, park officials told county lawmakers yesterday.

"Golf courses, amusement parks, beaches and pools are weather-dependent industries, and our weekend weather, specifically, has been great," Dan McBride, Playland's director, said after delivering a generally rosy report to the county Board of Legislators' Committee on Public Works, Transportation, Labor and Parks.

As of the close of business Sunday, 219,898 people had visited the amusement park this season, nearly 37 percent ahead of last year's pace. The figure is also 16,862 people above what the county had projected for this point in the year.

The strong start to the season provided welcome news for a park that over the years has been dogged by financial problems and was the site of fatal accidents in 2004 and 2005. The park had no fatalities last season, but suffered a spate of bad weather that caused several closings in June alone and soured attendance figures.

"The season has been so good for them that they are able to show us this strong picture," said Legislator Jose Alvarado, D-Yonkers, chairman of the parks committee.

That strong picture includes better-than-expected fiscal results. As of Sunday, the park had generated more than $3.1 million in revenue, about $384,444 more than the county had projected.

At the park yesterday, though, the improved fiscal performance meant far less to the weekday crowd of mostly teenagers and some harried parents and grandparents than the chance to enjoy one of the first truly hot days of summer.

"It's cool, except for the scary rides," said 11-year-old Erica Grosser of Suffern as she was beginning her day at Playland.

Others said the park was providing what it has always provided: a cheaper and closer-to-home alternative to amusement parks in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

"It's clean, and everybody seems to be happy," said Bill Pian, 64, of New City while his two grandchildren were off trying the rides.

"So far, so good," said Lisa O'Loughlin, 44, of Pleasantville, who was making her first visit to the park this season. She was there with her 13-year-old son and four of his friends. "It is a fun, family place to come."

Though McBride gave most of the credit for the park's fiscal performance to the weather, he also said the county's purchase of eight rides that previously were owned by outside vendors had improved revenue.

In the off-season, the county purchased the rides Crazy Mouse, Super Flight, Kite Flyer, Playland Plunge, Catch a Wave, Double Shot, Fun Slide and Kiddyland's Jungle Jammin for about $6 million. County officials said they thought buying the rides would generate$4.3 million more in revenue in the next 15 years.

McBride said the county's recent ban on smoking and foods with trans-fat oils had been well received by park visitors.

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