The only major hoop Nik Wallenda will have to walk through to walk on a wire across U.S. 41 in Sarasota is to get the OK from the Florida Department of Transportation.
The Sarasota City Commission approved 5-0 Wallenda's request to walk across U.S. 41 on Tuesday, Jan. 29 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Now it's up to the Florida Department of Transportation to sign off, and it remains to be seen whether FDOT will require Wallenda to be tethered to the wire like he was over Niagara Falls.
Commissioner Shannon Snyder requested that the city remove a tether requirement proposed by City Manager Tom Barwin.
"Mr. Wallenda should be able to do this without a tether," Snyder said. "It's part of our history here."
The commissioner also had high praise for Wallenda.
"You are the best in the world, and probably the best that your family has produced," he said.
City Manager Tom Barwin requested that the commission approve the event based on three conditions:
- Wallenda should wear a tether
- FDOT approves the U.S. 41 closure
- Wallenda indemnify the city in case of injury
The first one, of course, is no more. Wallenda was famously requested by ABC to wear a harness, something he never does, during his walk across Niagara Falls in 2012.
Wallenda said he will go without a harness when he walks across the Grand Canyon this summer.
"I'm walking over the Grand Canyon without a tether, and I signed up with a new television partner because of that," Wallenda said, adding that the event will be aired live in more than 180 countries.
Wallenda said he carries a $20 million public liability insurance that covers "everything from mental distress if someone were to see me fall and have mental distress to an injury by someone tripping over a cable." Circus Sarasota also has an additional $5 million policy, he added. The policy doesn't expire either for the event, Wallenda said.
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Wallenda assured the commission he knows the risk every time he steps on a wire.
"I have a beautiful wife and three beautiful children, and I train very hard," he said. "Yes, my great-grandfather did lose his life when he was 73. He was 73 when he had a double hernia and should not have been on the wire to be honest with you, and the wire was rigged improperly. There was a lot that came into play with that. But what we do is predominately safe."
Diagrams of the walk show the high wire running from Marina Tower on the corner of Cocoanut and Gulf Stream avenues, over Bayfront Drive, and ending near the Unconditional Surrender statue on Island Park Drive. Wallenda last crossed Sarasota on a tightrope in 2010 between the One Watergate condo building to The Ritz-Carlton. That walk didn't require special permits because
"I love this city," Wallenda said. "I do everything I can as I tour the world to promote this city."
Wallenda said the distance is about 100 feet shorter on this walk than the 2010 walk. A crane would hold the one end of the tightrope for a straight horizontal walk, Wallenda explained. The walk would start from Marina Tower toward Sarasota Bay.
"Every walk that I do is different," Wallenda said. "Every walk that I do is unique."
The exposure could be huge for Sarasota, said Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County.
"My guess is looking at something in the range of probably 50 to 75 million media impressions," she said, which would be in the form of news, videos, web postings and newspapers.
Haley added that the previous walk produced statewide coverage picked up by national news wires.
Additionally, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and Visit Sarasota County will kick off a promotion with JetBlue at JFK International Airport in New York where Wallenda's walk will be streamed in Terminal 5, Haley said.
Wallenda's Circus Sarasota show will include his family's trademark tightrope act along with the family participating in the show, and some custom stunts.
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