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The Final Caterpillar Ride

Hoffman’s Playland, the beloved amusement park in Latham, will be shutting down in September

by Ann Morrow on July 10, 2014


It’s the end of an era, a 1950s-steeped era of bumper cars, Tilt-a-Whirls, cotton candy, and the faces of little ones lighting up at the sight of a fairyland carousel. Hoffman’s Playland on Route 9 in Latham opened in the early ’50s, and its ambience of old-fashioned fun has changed little over the decades—much to the delight of its patrons, especially those who visited the park as children and then returned with their own children. This is the last summer that anyone will swooshing through the air on a ride or shooting skee in the game arcade, though, as the park is scheduled to close in September.

The mere sight of the park’s jolly clown-face marquee and twinkling lights is enough to bring a smile to the faces of drivers traversing Route 9; however, demand for commercial space along the route is one of the factors for the park’s closure, as owners, David and Ruth Hoffman plan to develop the 8-acre parcel into residential and retail space as part of their retirement. The park’s ice-cream stand and a miniature-golf course were developed several years ago.

According to the Albany Business Review in an interview with the Hoffmans earlier this week, the decision to sell was long in coming, while attempts to find an appropriate buyer to continue the park didn’t pan out. Among the possible new owners were Guptill’s Arena, another longtime family-owned business, and, rumor had it, Six Flags theme park. Playland’s seasonal closing date has been shortened to allow for its 19 amusement rides to be sold at auction. The rides, though small and sedate by current extreme thrill-ride standards, are what give the park much of its charm and suitability for children of all ages.

Nostalgia for the park has been flowing continuously through social media since news of its probable demise last year. Save Hoffman’s Playland on Facebook has almost 20,000 members, and has become a repository for memories and photos. Recent commentary includes suggestions for moving the Ferris wheel to Troy, which has a storied history regarding the invention of the classic amusement ride.

Officials for Albany County and the Town of Colonie have stated that they are still working on prospects for retaining or moving the park, but according to the Hoffmans, such a scenario isn’t likely. The last day that Hoffman’s Playland will open its gates to the public is Sunday, Sept. 14.