Hoffman’s Playland has been a Colonie landmark for more than six decades. It’s been a child’s gentle introduction to the world of amusement parks. It’s been a summer job for countless teens. And it’s been a place parents could reward their children’s good grades and good behavior, while feeling like kids again themselves as they rode the rides with them.
Soon, this Route 9 beacon will be nothing more than a memory. The owners, David and Ruth Hoffman, are set to retire. They offered to sell the park to someone else in order to keep it running, but they couldn’t find anyone. So, they are developing the land by replacing the rides with more of the mixed commercial and residential buildings that are currently cropping up next door — where Hoffman’s Mini Golf, Hoffman’s Restaurant, Lickity Splits ice cream stand and Hoffman’s Driving Range once stood.
We can’t fault the Hoffmans for deciding the time has come to close the last vestige of their family’s entertainment empire. Everyone deserves to retire so they can spend more time doing the things they held off on doing while they were working. And they did try to find a way to keep the park going so more generations of Capital District residents could enjoy it, even as they said good-bye to some of their other businesses.
Unfortunately, in terms of dollars and cents, the land Hoffman’s Playland sits on is more valuable for commercial enterprises than to the families that visit the park every summer. As the area of Route 9 surrounding the park saw more shops and businesses come in, the park became increasingly penned in to the point where you can barely see it from the road. If not for the huge sign with the smiling clown’s face and huge, flashing arrow pointing toward the park, you could miss it. It was only a matter of time before the bumper cars, the parachute ride, the merry-go-round and the twin Ferris wheels would be replaced with restaurants and boutiques.
Though Hoffman’s Playland will no longer exist after this summer, the hope the Hoffmans have is to keep vestiges of the park in the region. They are looking to sell the rides that made the park a popular destination, including the ornate merry-go-round. It would be great if that could remain in the Town of Colonie, perhaps as a stand-alone ride like the carousel in Saratoga Springs’ Congress Park. It wouldn’t be the same, but it would be a nice reminder of the park. We’re not sure what could be done with the Scrambler or the parachute ride, though.
And for those who want to keep the memories of the park alive, there is a Facebook group called Save Hoffman’s Playland. Originally formed last year as a protest group when word of the park’s possible closing first came out, it has now become an online site where people can share their old pictures and reminisce about their trips there. Judging from the nearly 20,000 Facebook “likes” the page has gotten, it’s clear many area residents have discovered this resource.
It will be sad when Hoffman’s Playland closes in two months, but hopefully the reminders of the park’s existence will offer some comfort to those who grew up with it.
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