Even though there were no roller coaster cars racing along the 3,400 feet of track on Playland’s Dragon Coaster and the park’s Gondola Wheel was not yet turning, there was a flurry of activity today at the Playland Amusement Park in Rye, but you had to know where to find it, because it was inside of the Westchester Children’s Museum.
Supporters of the museum, members of its board, county officials, designers, construction workers and others had gathered for an indoor groundbreaking ceremony. They were marking the beginning of an expansion project to open up a previously unused 16,000-square-foot section of the museum’s boardwalk facility.
The museum occupies what had been a long-abandoned bathhouse on the boardwalk, overlooking a prime section of the Playland beach. In 2013, the county approved a lease for the Children’s Museum to move into the space at 100 Playland Parkway. It had spent the previous 13 years operating at 16 different locations. After initial renovations to a portion of the new space, the museum opened on a limited basis during the 2014 and 2015 summer seasons. Improvements to the physical plant have been taking place ever since.
Marc Oxman of the Oxman Law Group PLCC in White Plains has been on the museum’s board of directors for approximately 10 years. He told the Business Journal that until now the square footage that is being opened up has not been utilized because of a lack of funding. “But, things have been going well, people have been generous, so we’re going to open up the entire facility and we’re excited about it.”
The additional square footage could begin being put into service very quickly, according to Carolyn Carr Spencer, president of the museum’s board of trustees. “Based on the conversations we’re having with our construction team and our design team, the space should be done within a month or two months.”
She said that for now they’re doing the basics: flooring, walls, heat and air conditioning. Then, she said, “We will go into fundraising for large exhibits including a climbing exhibit, water exhibit and an area where children can make things.”
In the first season of the museum’s operations at Playland, attendance was around 20,000 and it has grown steadily. Attendance on the order of 250,000 a year once fully operational is considered a reasonable expectation, especially as the museum grows in popularity as a destination for school trips.
“I was just here last week with a school group where my children go to school and the reaction I get, and this is the third year they’ve brought the school here, is overwhelming. This is one of the best field trips they ever do,” Carr Spencer said.
While attending the event, Westchester County Executive George Latimer said that a fully-operational children’s museum fits into his administration’s vision of Playland’s future which is “to try to make the attractions in this park and this environment as much year-round as we can.” He said they’d like to develop a Christmas-themed activity to bring people to Playland, just as the Halloween event “Scared by the Sound” has attracted crowds for several years. “From a pure business standpoint, the more people that come here, the more revenue is generated.”
Latimer said there was nothing new to report regarding the operation of Playland by Standard Amusements under a contract signed during the administration of his predecessor, Rob Astorino. The Latimer administration has been in talks with Standard Amusements regarding that deal.
“I’m not really worried too much about the deal. I’m really worried about the vision of Playland going forward,” Latimer told the Business Journal.