Ernie Blundell takes fun very seriously.
The new general manager of Playland started as a seasonal employee at Six Flags Great Adventure in 1991. He stayed for twenty years. Before moving to West Harrison to take the Playland gig in the fall of 2021, he had meaningful career stops at Seattle’s Space Needle, the September 11 Memorial & Museum and the Empire State Building.
We spoke with Blundell about Playland’s new ride, called The Old Rye Motorbike Factory, and what it signals about the direction of the park.
“We are not an IP park,” said Blundell, so you should not expect to see Marvel characters or things like that. “Playland itself is its own intellectual property. There is folklore that exists around Rye Playland. What’s important is we pay homage to that reality. We are a park with amusements, not necessarily an amusement park.”
“We are a Westchester County Park, we are in Rye, and to be able to include that in our storytelling across the board is very important,” continued Blundell. The Old Rye Motorbike Factory ride is aligned with what residents can expect from Standard Amusements going forward. The GM points out that the ride, from Italian ride manufacturer Technical Park, is antique in its nature with detailed craftsmanship that fits into the Art Deco feel of the park. It was also purposely selected to be a family ride that can accommodate both adults and kids above 36 inches. Blundell groups the ride and its quality along with the Carousel and the Derby Racer, both recently renovated by the County.
What’s Next: 50 Dancing Water Jets
Playland opened late this season, missing its May 21st target and opening June 9th. It is still in the midst of a major renovation. Westchester County is responsible for the infrastructure of the park–such as the three new restroom facilities that opened this season and the rebuilding of the park’s colonnades and other renovations still ongoing. Standard Amusements is responsible for the finish work, the rides–everything that is tied to the amenities and the guest experience.
“I want people to know this is moving forward. This is progress,” said Blundell. Some of the things visitors will see next season include a new look for the front entrance area. Where Burger King used to be will be a retail store and opposite that close to the Ice Casino will be a restaurant.
The Pavilion area by the entrance will also get a new look. “[We are] creating a show fountain with 50 dancing jets with music and lights. A lot of greenery, a lot of trees,” said Blundell. There are also plans for two new rides going in next year, but mum’s the word on the details.
What is Success for the New Ride?
Asked what success is for Playland’s new $3 million dollar Old Rye Motorbike Factory ride, Blundell describes the first four guests to enjoy the ride when it opened on Friday–a grandpa, grandma and two grandkids.
“There are rides that have been here since 1928. I see people come here–grandparents tell stories about their children and then their grandkids riding the ride they rode when they were a kid,” said Blundell, telling the story of the intergenerational fun seekers.
“You’re gonna have a unique story,” Blundell told the grandparents and grandkids. “Because you’re gonna be able to tell your grandkids who are now riding this ride that you were the first to actually ride it. And when they got off the ride, the smiles on their faces … yeah, they definitely enjoyed it. And that’s my test of a successful ride.”