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Rye Playland: Beloved Tradition May Be Nearing End

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Rye Playland, which opened in 1928 in Westchester County, N.Y., is one of the few government-run amusement parks in the United States.

Rye Playland, which opened in 1928 in Westchester County, N.Y., is one of the few government-run amusement parks in the United States.

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RYE, N.Y. (CBS 2) – There’s trouble in Rye Playand, as the popular county-run amusement park in Rye continues to experience declining admissions and rising deficits.

Now some are left wondering if a beloved summer tradition could be dying, reports CBS 2’s Lou Young.

New Yorkers back at Rye Playland this summer for its 82nd season are wondering if the end is finally near for the grand old county park on Long Island Sound.

Some are making what could be their final pilgrimage to a cherished memory of youth.

“I’m very worried they might close it, because it’s just a great park that we enjoyed as kids,” Poughkeepsie resident Jim Helliksen said. “I haven’t been here since I was 18 years old, and I’m 48.”

“I haven’t seen this since he was seven years old…and he’s 53 now,” Ameretra Young, who made the trip from New Jersey, said.

Playland was opened in 1928 by Westchester County, one of the few amusement parks in the nation operated by the government. With seven rides designated as national landmarks, it’s a quaint throwback entertainment venue, both venerated and expensive.

“The time has come to reinvent Playland for the 21st century. The financial burden that the current operation has placed on taxpayers…is just no longer sustainable,” County Executive Rob Astorino said.

The truth is that attendance is down, even on a beautiful afternoon like there was Saturday. There were people there, but it wasn’t terribly crowded, and some of the old-timers think they know why: inflated prices.

To boost revenue, the county began charging flat-rate admissions, issuing bracelets to park-goers – it costs $5 just to walk around.

“The admission statistics alone tell the truth,” candy vendor Nick Manas said. “It used to be 900,000 five or six years ago. It’s down around 400,000 [now], something like that.”

“It’s that delicate balance – how do you keep it affordable, and yet help the county to make money?” Rye resident Sheri Flood said.

That’s the balance the county will try to strike when it starts accepting proposals for Playland Park in October.

An experiment to privatize Playland Park in 1979 ended in disaster. Marriot Corporation ran it for two years, and lost more than $5 million.

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