Westchester County officials in conflict with Playland operator Standard Amusements

Posted Monday, April 29, 2019 9:46 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Westchester County officials said Sunday they were terminating a deal with a private company to manage Playland, the county's landmark amusement park. County Executive George Latimer accused Standard Amusements of wasting taxpayer money and spending it in ways that weren't allowed in the agreement.

Read more from WNBC/New York.

Related parks

Monday, April 29, 2019 4:38 PM

Six Flags Rye Playland coming soon...

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Monday, April 29, 2019 6:24 PM

I think Cedar Fair Rye Playland has a nicer ring to it.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019 5:45 PM

Hopefully this is a good thing. After all, the park has been operated by the county for 90 years, so I can't see what would be concerning about the county taking the helm for the foreseeable future.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019 7:44 PM

This article has more information, including the full statement from Latimer.

https://abc7ny.com/society/westchester-cancels-contract-with-new-pl...t/5275638/

The good thing is that it seems like neither side of this dispute want to see Playland turned into condos or green space:

This Administration believes in Playland and its future; we are not looking to liquidate the park as a liability, as some feel. We want what is best for Playland - to see it succeed and thrive.

But on the other hand, Standard Amusements was set to invest $32.7 million into the park, to be used for new rides and other improvements. I'm not sure whether the county will invest in anything significant without Standard Amusements being involved.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019 10:26 AM

Didn't Jack Falfas have a hand in this whole thing at one point?

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Saturday, May 4, 2019 10:47 AM

I have been advocating on the local level for years for the right operator who has the investment and day to day management skills to take over the park operations. There is a huge against vs. for privatized operations discussion that has been fiercely playing out in the local press, different legs of government and social media for years.

Standard lost Falfas years ago, and is basically a no experience start up. But their team seems to be smart and driven with the resources to eventually hire the right people. Their plan was enough to win me over the more-of-the-same underfund and watch-the-park continue-to-literally-fall-apart county management.

Sadly, it looks like there is no way this is going to end amicably at this point as the County truely wants Standard completely out.

For any interested, below were talking points I had put together a while back. Advocating for the operator:

Playland needs major capital infusion.
century.
The last major capital improvement investments of a marketable significant (rides) date from the 1990’s, early aughts! 20 years ago!

Playland needs a restoration of reputation and a new identity.
In addition to the physical infrastructure, the local and national reputation of Playland is so far in the hole that having a new management company come in and refresh the park is almost as important to the future success as the Capital Improvements. Continuing with the County, evokes more of the same and will not bring back the successful hey-days. The Standard Management will provide new rides, amenities, dining and new marketing. It will re-define Playland, making it appealing again to the locals (who are not currently going!). Look at all the excitement just the schematic site plan generated on-line! Even if Standard Amusements is only capable of pulling off a portion of the proposed site plan upfront, it would still be a huge success and improvement against the status quo.

While your envisioned County government may be perfectly capable of day to day operations; The sustainability of the ongoing improvements required is not guaranteed by future government administrations.
Under continued direct County Management, the amusement park is always going to be competing for necessary ongoing funding in order to sustain itself. Playland will always be one of many on a long list of projects. The park will need to be continually advocated for by a constantly rotating board of 17 legislators and an executive. All of whom, will have very different future interests, which does not secure the future of the park.

By out-sourcing management; the County can focus their resources on other critical needs energies, management and funding
Playland is going to be lower on the list (as it should be) when competing against critical infrastructure projects such as roads, transportation and other county responsibilities. With Playland being managed by a third party, the county will be able to release and allocate resources, energies, management and funding to other critical needs projects. And Playland won’t be losing out when future budgeting ear-marked for the Park are re-directed to these more critical infrastructure emergencies.

Current infrastructure today is so far removed from the Playland Commission, there is no easy path backwards to replicate that business model
Both organizationally and the starting point of deferred maintenance of current facilities, lack of capital improvements, successful marketing infrastructure. Playland has been on a downslide for the past 20 years, not just through the Astorino administration. The management by the County is so far removed from what is being called the successful Playland Commission model of the 1980’s, that it is not just flipping a switch.
Having a private company relying on a profit business model will quicker propel the required capital improvements, repairs and marketing, because these will need to be done in order for Standard to succeed. And more importantly they need to be done for the continued existence of Playland.

Even if the Current contract is less-then-ideal; from the current administration’s standpoint: Playland cannot sustain another half decade of deferred maintenance by re-starting the process
Abandoning the existing contract, renegotiating, restarting the process (an additional RFP) will take years of additional decisions and a complete restart (again during which the decision makers are likely to change). It has already been 8-years to get to this point. In the first iteration of this, Standard proposed the most upfront investment of all interested parties. These proposals were vetted in multiple iterations by various boards over years from 2012 to 2016, all the while maintenance at Playland continued to completely deferred. The thing Playland needs most critically is capital repairs, then new capital improvements and new marketing/management. Why not hold Standard to their current contract and get started investing into the park NOW? While "the contract may not be in the best interest of the taxpayers of Westchester" it is in the best interest of the amenity of Playland in order for it to be able to continue into the future and be restored to the glory it deserves.

Arguing against the Standard deal using the Marriott example does not make sense.
21st century Westchester user is very different from the Early 1980’s. An apples to apples argument cannot be drawn. Furthermore, it was Marriott’s venture into the amusement park industry business line, something which the company very quickly pulled back-on, which was not successful. not the idea of a private-public partnership! Marriott, the company was not successful, not the operational business model. (An aside, Marriott actually build two very large mega parks from scratch outside of San Francisco and Chicago, which they quickly sold. Both parks are still successfully operated to this day by Cedar Fair and Six Flags, respectively).

Last edited by Kstr 737, Saturday, May 4, 2019 10:56 AM
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Sunday, May 5, 2019 10:40 AM

Yes, Jack was with Standard in the beginning, but from what I understand he is no longer in their employ.

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Monday, May 6, 2019 2:10 PM

The initial decision to go with Standard was curious to me. Their main competition was Central Amusements, the subsidiary of Zamperla that runs Luna Park at Coney Island. Central has done a good job of expanding the attractions there and it seems to be well run. So it was surprising to me that the county chose an inexperienced operator instead.

On the other hand, Luna Park is pretty expensive, comparable to Six Flags (for somewhat less in the way of rides), whereas Playland is half to two-thirds as expensive (for much less). There's a kind of a value there - I don't know if that was part of the discussions when looking at the respective proposals, but it does seem to me Playland is more open to the entire community than Luna. For a municipally owned amenity, that seems important. It would be a shame if driving out Standard had an exclusionary outcome.

(OTOH, I think New York City was perfectly happy to make Coney Island a bit more expensive.)

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