Sustainable Playland Updates Status of its Playland Plan

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WPCNR PLAYLAND PLAY-BY-PLAY. From Sustainable Playland. March 13, 2014:

Sustainable Play Inc. (SPI) said today that an amended plan significantly reducing the size of the building and at the same time increasing the number of parking spaces at the site has been submitted to Westchester County.

The revision to the plan was developed in conjunction with Playland Sports, the owner/operator of the Field Zone proposed for the park.

An Amendment to the Playland Improvement Plan (PIP) providing the details of the changes was provided to the Westchester County Executive’s office, which, in turn, submitted it to the County Board of Legislators which is currently reviewing the PIP.  The legislators are charged with approving major changes to the County-owned park.

In the amended plan, the Field House is reduced by 13 percent, from 95,000 to 82,500 square feet, while the number of parking spaces increases by 100. The initial concept for a Field Zone to be created by using a portion of Playland’s sprawling asphalt parking lot was presented in SPI’s initial submission to County Executive Rob Astorino’s 2010 Request for Proposals to Reinvent Playland for the 21st Century. 

Since that time the footprint for this component of the park has been reduced by more than 50 percent, from 10.16 to 4.86 acres.  Concurrently, 615 parking spaces that would have been lost under the larger footprint will be retained.

Playland Sports emphasized that 82,500 square feet is the minimum size required for the Field House to be economically viable.

The reduction was achieved by reducing the space devoted to offices and other ancillary areas.  The size of the indoor as well as the facility’s two outdoor sports fields cannot be reduced because their dimensions are determined by regulations established for specific sports including lacrosse and soccer.

The 35-foot high Field House has been positioned and designed to line up with the existing County maintenance buildings that are of a similar height and which will remain at the western edge of the parking lot serving as a buffer between the Field Zone and the adjacent residential area.

Its construction, which can be completed in approximately six months, will meet all FEMA requirements.  The outdoor fields will have a permeable surface allowing water to drain through as opposed to the current impermeable asphalt surface of the parking lot.

The parking lot was sized in an effort to accommodate visitors to the historic amusement park which opened in 1928 on the busiest days of the summer season:  Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend.   At other times during the summer season and during the other nine months of the year the parking lot largely sits empty.  The Field Zone can be accommodated by using a limited portion of the excess asphalted area.

Field Zone activities will be curtailed on the highest traffic days to make its parking spaces available for amusement park visitors.

Market analysis by Playland Sports has demonstrated a strong demand for indoor and outdoor athletic field space both locally and across Westchester.  Representatives of a wide range of youth sports leagues representing more than 5,000 participants have addressed both the County Board of Legislators and Rye City officials regarding the dire lack of field space particularly for youth sports.

They have strongly endorsed the Field Zone concept at Playland and urged that the plan be allowed to go forward.  Playland Sports initially considered a 78,000-square-foot Field House but based on market demand had increased the size to 95,000 square feet which has now been trimmed to 82,500.

SPI was selected from among 12 respondents to the RFP.  In 2012 Astorino signed a 10-year Asset Management Agreement with SPI. The PIP prepared by SPI that is currently before the Board of Legislators focuses on the first year of SPI management.  It is expected that SPI will assume management of Playland this fall.  The County Park Departments will continue to operate and maintain the park for the 2014 season.

SPI’s approach to Playland calls for making the park a year-round destination with a variety of components to create a more balanced and non-weather dependent revenue stream.  The publicly operated amusement park, the only one of its kind in the nation, has been losing money and visitors in recent years.   Astorino sought to remedy that by privatizing the operation and bringing in new ideas for making the park more sustainable.  SPI is a non-for-profit that was created to submit an RFP response with the goal of assuming management responsibilities.  A professional management company will be hired to verse day-to-day operations and deal directly with the various operators.  The management company would report to SPI.

In addition to the Field Zone, the other components of the park under SPI’s plan are the historic Amusement Zone to be operated by Central Amusements International (CAI);  the Ice Casino which is slated to reopen for fall 2014 following repairs from damage sustained in Hurricane Sandy; the Beach/Aquatic Zone to be operated by CAI;  the Great Lawn on the Sound to be created on the east side of the Amusement Zone; and the Westchester Children’s Museum that is now under construction in the former North Bathhouse on Playland’s refurbished boardwalk.  A number of new year-round restaurants will be added as the revitalization efforts move forward.

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