Huck Finn’s play area is in new safe hands

Brian Gaudet of Schenectady rides a paraglider with his daughter Madeline, 6, at Huck Finn Playland on July 9 in Albany.

Brian Gaudet of Schenectady rides a paraglider along with his daughter Madeline, 6, at Huck Finn Playland on July 9 in Albany.

Lori Van Buren/Albany Instances-Union

ALBANY – Huck Finn’s Playland is a kind of iconic locations that this space has to hope it by no means loses. It is like Nipper, in a means. It connects generations and contributes to our sense of place.

Ideally, then, the Playland could be owned by somebody who appreciates its historical past and what it means. In Joe Masher, this man is in Playland.


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We discovered Friday that Masher, the longtime chief working officer of Bow Tie Cinemas, has bought the theme park on Erie Boulevard and can make it the centerpiece of a brand new enterprise enterprise, Scene One Leisure, which incorporates the Movieland 6 advanced in Schenectady. For Macher, it is a very emotional buy.

The 57-year-old Brunswick native grew up going to the previous Hoffman Stadium on Route 9 in Colonie and continued to like the place into maturity — a lot in order that he instructed me on Friday that he would take Route 9 as a substitute of Interstate 787 to I-90, simply so He manages to cease by and try Hoffman’s home. His recollections of the backyard are considerable. He even described how fondly he remembers the previous red-top rubbish cans.

For Macher, it is nice that he now has the Ferris wheel and rides he used to trip as a toddler. He’s as dedicated to Playland’s future as any proprietor. That is excellent news for the area. That is excellent news for anybody hoping their youngsters will go to the park at some point.

Till Friday, it was truthful to query Playland’s future. Its present homeowners, the Sperber household, offered the previous Huck Finn’s Furnishings constructing, which Redburn Growth has since transformed right into a mixed-use advanced that features flats. Did Playland have a future there? Is it nonetheless?


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Sure apparently. Whereas Macher solely bought the park and rides for an undisclosed worth, he has the choice to buy the underlying land a couple of years later. He has rapid plans for the positioning — extra on that in a minute — and within the meantime, Redburn considers the park an acceptable neighbor. “It is an important ambiance,” firm supervisor Jeff Boyle instructed me.

I do know lots of you miss the previous Hoffman Stadium, which, with its greenery and adjoining ice cream stand, gives a country vibe that is a lot completely different from the considerably gritty location of Huck Finn’s within the warehouse district alongside 787. I perceive that sentiment. Particularly for the reason that failure to redevelop the Hoffman web site has allowed the property to fall into disrepair. (“It is unhappy to see it that means,” Macher mentioned.)

However remember how shut we had been to shedding the complete 72-year-old park.

In 2014, Playland appeared doomed till the Sperbers stepped up and agreed to maneuver the park’s 17 rides to the car parking zone in North Albany, subsequent to their furnishings retailer. (The $1.8 million transfer was supported by about $650,000 in grants, together with $250,000 from the Empire State Growth Company, the state’s financial improvement arm.)


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Had it not been for that effort, which included renaming the park, Hoffman would have gone the identical means as Pleasure Island and Mid-Metropolis, the 2 in style Menands regional theme parks that now stay solely as recollections.

However now the Sperber household’s position is over.

Macher spoke with me as he ready to maneuver from his house in Connecticut to Niskayuna, and famous how the continued redevelopment of the Warehouse District as an leisure district (largely for adults, in fact) has made it an more and more appropriate location for an amusement park. He additionally talked about future ambitions.

For one factor, Masher mentioned he is getting one other movie show within the D.C. space. He added that this announcement is predicted to be issued inside weeks. In the meantime, Scene One, which operates 9 film theaters nationally, plans to open two beer gardens in upstate New York and a stay music venue.


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At Playland, Masher mentioned he has already organized with Coca-Cola to open a backed water splash space that may assist relieve the park’s typically stifling warmth. He additionally desires so as to add rollercoasters and different rides for larger youngsters — and adults, too. Whereas Mascher credit the Sperber household with its stewardship of the park, you’ll be able to anticipate further adjustments within the coming years.

However the title is more likely to stay.

“I do not suppose Joe Masher’s ‘Playland’ has fairly the identical ring to it,” he mentioned.

    (Tags for translation) First Scene Leisure 

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