When it comes to the fate of Hoffman’s Playland, few things are certain. The owners announced earlier this summer they wished to retire, but since then little has been said about plans for the future of the park.
There are, however, some sure things: The long-running Latham amusement park will remain open for at least another summer, local officials want to do everything in their power to keep the park from turning into just another developable tract of land and people really, really love the Playland.
Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy put it to owners David and Ruth Hoffman this way: “I said, ‘I’ll help you if you want, and if you don’t want me to, I respect that.’ But I don’t want to lose this gem right in the middle of Albany County to development or housing without knowing I did everything I could to help.”
That’s why McCoy sat down Tuesday with Six Flags Great Escape President Eric Gilbert to interest him in buying the park. McCoy prepared a presentation with pictures of all the rides and attendance figures and highlights from the 61 years Hoffman’s Playland has been in the community.
“I told them Hoffman’s has been here for over 50 years and has continuously made a profit,” McCoy said. “I couldn’t tell them what the property was worth, though I could estimate it. I told them a lot of families don’t always get the time every summer to get up the Northway, and maybe they could take over and do a season pass admission to the park with so many visits to Lake George. I was just pitching a bunch of ideas at them.”
The Hoffmans could not be reached Wednesday. McCoy said he only just got the chance to sit down with them Tuesday after his meeting with Gilbert, and they appeared open and receptive to the idea of another company keeping the Playland open as an amusement park.
That option also appears to be the public’s preference, too, evident by a growing Facebook page titled “Save Hoffman’s Playland” that cropped up after news of the Hoffmans’ impending retirement broke.
As of Wednesday, nearly 19,000 people had liked the page on Facebook, with many posting comments or vintage photos of their favorite memories from Hoffman’s — little girls in knee socks holding tight to the merry-go-round and young boys looking wary from behind the bars of a roller coaster.
The Playland’s biggest appeal is its kiddie rides, which include a mini-Ferris wheel, Iron Horse train, roller coaster, Jolly Caterpillar and more. The arcade is also a favorite for the nostalgic set, with old-fashioned video games, foosball and air hockey.
McCoy said if Great Escape were interested in buying the park, he could envision it as a Great Escape for the younger set.
“I have three children — 9, 17 and 18,” he said. “My teens no longer want to go to Hoffman’s Playland, but it still has that appeal to young kids. This year alone, there were over 500 birthdays celebrated there this summer.”
But Hoffman’s also has a place in the hearts of more than 150 teenagers, college students and teachers who return each summer to work the rides and man the food booths offering popcorn, curly fries, fried dough and ice cream.
“That’s a lot of jobs,” said McCoy. “Ruth was telling me that many of their workers end up getting married because they’ve just shared so many memories there.”
Hoffman’s sits on about eight acres of land at 608 Loudon Road. It began as a family operation in 1952 with two rides and live ponies. Since then, it has expanded to include nearly two dozen rides, food venues, an arcade and a Subway restaurant.
It will wrap up its 2013 season Sept. 29.
“They did commit to staying open through next season,” said McCoy, “but they’re ready to move on. I think they want to look at their options and figure out quietly what’s best for them.”