Playland, Fresno’s own tiny theme park in the heart of the city, will reopen Friday after a 14-month face-lift.
In all, about 10,000 volunteer hours and around $700,000 were donated to resurrect Playland, which – along with sister park Storyland – closed in March 2015 due to a lack of income and mounting maintenance costs.
“I was initially surprised with the amount of volunteers,” said Scott Miller, chairman of the Storyland/Playland board. “But I realized this place is so important to so many people. I met one family that has four generations of Playland fans.”
Miller said that all of Playland’s attractions have been repainted, repaired and inspected by state safety officials. Most will be ready on Day One, but some cosmetic features and a few rides will not.
Leadership Fresno’s train station will not be finished for another month, and the Rotary Club of Fresno’s new entryway will not be completed for a few months.
$750,000The fundraising goal for reopening Playland – as of May 2, the board was about $50,000 away
The new brightly colored teacup ride has been ordered from a manufacturer in Italy, Miller said, but it has not shipped yet. The new boats for paddling across Lake Washington should arrive in the next few weeks.
Storyland/Playland board vice chairman Bruce Batti said that fundraising will continue until Playland hits its $750,000 goal. However, the board plans to continually update both Storyland and Playland in the coming years.
Fixing all of the rides proved difficult, Batti said, which delayed the Playland opening by a month.
Batti is encouraged by the profits raked in by Storyland since it reopened in September. To date, the park has made about $340,000. He expects it will reach $400,000 to $500,000 by the one-year mark. The operational costs for running the park are expected to be about $300,000.
“I guarantee it (Storyland) will make $100,000 to $150,000 in profit,” Batti said. He credited intense interest from local school districts and the Fresno County Office of Education for the success.
$100,000-$150,000Projected profits for Storyland’s first year, according to its board
The board plans to use this money to redo the talking story boxes, update the Jack and the Beanstalk area and add a new tiny house for reading stories to children in Storyland.
Batti hopes that Playland will be a similar success. Visitors will be charged on a per-ride basis, but the prices aren’t set in stone. Rides will cost $2 or $3 to begin with.
Batti said the board hopes to keep prices low enough to allow access to all Fresno families but high enough to allow the board to maintain and improve the parks without asking for donations every year.
“It’s a very fine window – that area between charging too much and enough,” he said.
The current round of upgrades to both parks is expected to be wrapped up midsummer.
Batti said the parks will try to follow the example set by neighboring Fresno Chaffee Zoo.
“The zoo is a true shining star for our region,” Batti said. “These two parks need to use that as a model. We should be adding something every year.”