The “more” in Huck Finn’s Warehouse and More has taken on a whole new meaning after plans were announced to move the rides from Hoffman’s Playland to the store in North Albany.
David and Ruth Hoffman, owners of Hoffman’s Playland, took one last ride on the amusement park’s train Wednesday, Oct. 8, before announcing a deal with Huck Finn’s to keep the rides within Albany County. The new Huck Finn’s Playland will cost $1.8 million to open, with $650,000 provided through grants. The push to save the park, or at least the equipment, was started through an outpouring of community support.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said he was determined to keep the park in the county and not have the rides separated and shipped out to buyers across the country.
“Over a year ago, when they announced they were retiring, there was a lot of heartache, and not just here in Albany County,” said McCoy. “We handled a ton of phone calls in our offices from people in California, Seattle, Florida and Mississippi talking about the experience they had here as children growing up.”
Hoffman’s Playland has been a community staple in the Town of Colonie ever since Bill Hoffman opened the amusement park in 1952. For 62 years, the park has seen thousands of kids coming and going, ready with tickets to ride the train. Bill’s son, David, and his wife, Ruth, have kept the park running for decades.
“Many children, both young and old, were disappointed and heartbroken,” said David Hoffman, “but through the entire summer, hundreds of guests wished us all the best in retirement.”
A “Save Hoffman’s Playland” Facebook page was started up soon after the impending closure was announced. It has garnered more than 20,000 likes with many memories shared.
The Hoffmans had been thinking about retirement for several years before officially making the announcement in June 2013. Back in July, the Hoffmans told Spotlight News that the decision was not easy, as the park held lifelong memories.
“It’s something we started thinking about several years ago, and we realized that if you don’t plan ahead, it is not a business you can easily exit from,” David Hoffman said in July. “It’s a unique set of circumstances. But my wife and I have been running the park for 40 years and started to feel that the time was right for us to step down.”
After a year of decision-making and planning, the park’s doors closed for good this year on Sunday, Sept. 14. The Playland stayed open two hours past its 6 p.m. closing time to accommodate the scores of people who wanted to take one last train ride, or another spin on the Ferris wheel.
Hoffman said Jeff Sperber, president of Huck Finn’s, is serious about preserving the history of the park and making sure future generations create their own memories.
“We started working on this many, many months ago,” said Sperber. “The Playland will live on.”
Huck Finn’s will receive a $250,000 grant from National Grid, another $250,000 grant from Empire State Development, and $150,00 from the Albany County Industrial Development Agency. There are no tax breaks being awarded for the project.
The project is expected to create 150 seasonal jobs at the park, and it’s expected to be open for the 2015 season. Huck Finn’s Playland is also hoping to boost tourism to the area because it is visible from the intersection of 787 and I-90.
“We will move everything that families love about this park to a location next to our business in North Albany,” said Sperber. “The new Warehouse District under Mayor Sheehan is beginning a major transformation and rapidly becoming an area for residents of all ages to enjoy.”
Before the Huck Finn deal was finalized, the Hoffmans were planning to auction the Playland’s equipment if arrangements to keep the rides within the Capital District did not surface.
Originally, the Hoffmans planned to sell the park, but recent developments around the land did not leave the sale as a viable option. The Hoffmans are looking to develop the property with a mixed residential and commercial usage.
David Hoffman handed the key to the park’s old No. 99 train to Sperber to finalize the deal.
“You are the new engineer,” said Hoffman.
Emily Drew contributed to this story.