Rye Playland, a summer ritual, opens Saturday

Rye Playland prepares for their opening on May

Rye Playland prepares for their opening on May 12 in Rye. (May 8, 2012) (Credit: Susan Stava)

Playland -- Westchester County's storied amusement park -- swings its gates open for another season Saturday morning.

The Rye park's 84th season could be a defining one for the taxpayer-subsidized entertainment venue as Westchester officials review three proposals -- narrowed from a list of 12 contenders last year by a citizens committee -- to renovate 100 acres of the sprawling, 280-acre property off Long Island Sound.

The fun begins at 11 a.m. with entertainment at the Fountain Plaza followed by a parade with the Port Chester High School Marching Band, a gaggle of elected officials and Playland's famed mascot, Coaster the Dragon.

Rides open at noon and there will be food, music and entertainment until the park closes at 7 p.m. Special opening day admission is $15, which is good for unlimited rides. Admissions go on sale at 10:30 a.m.

"We're excited and the weather is looking good for opening day," said Peter Tartaglia, deputy commissioner of Westchester County Parks, who operates the amusement park. "We're expecting another great season."

Playland is bleeding money at a rate of nearly $5 million a year because of rising labor costs, debt obligations and a drop in attendance, estimated to have declined by 80,000 in the past year alone. The county owes $30 million on debt service for capital projects in the park, which will cost taxpayers about $3 million this year.

County Executive Robert Astorino, who is grappling with recurring budget deficits, has pledged to come up with a better business model for the park but hasn't made a decision on which proposal, if any, he will support.

The final three citizens committee recommendations included proposals for renovating the park and adding new amenities that the county is considering, or a hybrid proposal that incorporated numerous ideas.

Nevertheless, county officials say the park will open on Saturday and there have been no major changes to the rides this year, except for the reopening of an old favorite for youngsters, the Caterpillar ride.

For more information, visit the park's website: http://ryeplayland.org/

Highlights of opening day:

• Special opening day admission is $15 which includes unlimited rides.

• Tickets can be purchased starting at 10:30 a.m.; the park closes at 7 p.m.

• The band Reunion will play hits from the 1950s, '60s and '70s at Music Tower Theater stage at 1, 3 and 5 p.m.

• Playland's Kiddyland DJ will entertain with the "Play it DJ" show at four performances at 1, 3, 5 and 6 p.m.

• "Mad about Science," will be performed in Kiddyland for two shows at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Admission:

• Unlimited Rides $30

• Junior $20

• Nonresident Spectator (no rides) $10

* Free Spectator Admission for Westchester County residents; $5 resident discount on all other prices

Season Passes:

*Unlimited Rides $95 ($15 discount for Westchester residents)

*Nonresident spectator admission (no rides) $35

Parking:

Weekdays, $5; weekends, $7 and holidays, $10

Public Transportation:

Bee-Line bus service: 75/76/91

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