Valley Landmark Opens For Season

February 16th 2008 Playland is a little brighter this season thanks to a warm winter opening day and a $35,000 paint job to the pavilions and carousel top.

Debbie Duley, Fresno, says "It's actually much nicer than even the last time I was here which was just a couple years ago."

Michele Smiley, Fresno, says "It's been here forever, for as long as it's been here it looks really good."

This is the 53rd season for Playland and the 46th for Storyland. Both have created memories for generations, including 11 year old Tony Quintero. "I see my childhood here and everything else."

The park has had its ups and downs when it comes to finances and attendance in recent years.

To help change that, the amusement parks are adding $400,000 in improvements.

Most weren't ready for opening day including the new Tilt-a-Whirl which is awaiting inspection.

Barry Falke, Executive Director Storyland-Playland, says "The weather in January threw us off a little bit. It pushed the state back, because all of our new rides have to be inspected by the state of California, so they were way back on their inspection schedule, so it is what it is."

Volunteers are working on another new attraction, Shipwreck Cove, which will soon offer $3 pirate boat rides to kids around Lake Washington.

Saturday Rotary members stapled 500 feet of donated fire hose to create a bumper for the boats.

Loren Hanke, Fresno Sunrise Rotary Member, says "I did a project for a retired fireman, told him what we were doing here and he decided to call his old fire buddies, and the fire department donated their old hose."

Community donations and matching from the City of Fresno have helped bring the changes including Splash Junction which will be the biggest and most expensive addition this year.

"It's going to be a 3,000 square foot Splash Park. It's going to have 12 to 15 above ground and below ground water features, and it's going to be free to the community," says Falke. "We're betting on the fact they'll also ride the carousel, the train or buy lunch."

Last season was the first year the parks tracked attendance but say the 105,000 visitors that came through both parks was an increase. They're hoping with more good weather to do the same this year.

The park hopes to have Shipwreck Cove and the Tilt-a-Whirl open in the next three weeks. The plan is to open Splash Park Memorial Day weekend.

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