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Private company to operate Rye Playland

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For the last couple of years, keeping Rye Playland rides like the Dragon Coaster open and maintained has cost taxpayers between $3 million and $5 million annually. But a deal signed Tuesday handed management of the Dragon and other rides over to a company that hoped to allow those taxpayer dollars to go to something else.

Aisha Siler's ridden the rides at Playland since she was a little girl.

"Because I just love bumper cars," she said. "It's a lot of fun."

But Siler and other visitors to Playland have watched more attractions disappear over the years than seen new ones pop up.

"I miss some of the rides they had there," grandfather George O'Connor said. "Because they broke, they took them away. The bumblebee? The turtle-chase?"

In the last decade, Rye Playland attendance declined by more than half. New management vowed on Tuesday to reverse that trend by keeping Playland open year-round and adding a waterpark, ball fields, and more with an injection of $34 million in private money.

"Sustainable Playland had the best vision for what a family park in the 21st century should look like," Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino said.

The deal calls for Sustainable Playland Inc. to give the county both a base fee and an annual payment to hopefully help it pay off its $32 million debt on Playland.

"To save the park, we needed to come up with a vision that would preserve the traditions but also lift the financial burdens to running the park off our taxpayers," Astorino said.

For Playland's guests and county leaders, the park represents not only a summer getaway or a losing investment with the temptation of redemption, but also an 85-year-old piece of history.

"I used to mooch tickets from the boats when the boats came here," O'Connor the grandfather recalled of his childhood. "I asked the people when they got back on the boat: Can I have your leftover tickets?"

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