Talk about a way to beat rush hour traffic.
High wire artist Nik Wallenda is seeking permission to walk a tighrope across U.S. 41 in Sarasota.
The Sarasota City Commission approved, by a vote of 5-0, Wallenda's request to walk across U.S. 41 on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
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 the 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.
Wallenda said he carries a $20 million public liability insurance that covers "everything from mental distress by seeing me fall or by an injury of someone tripping over a cable." Circus Sarasota also has an additional $5 million policy, he added.
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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.
The Sarasota resident is getting ready for his Circus Sarasota show that runs from Friday, Jan. 25 to Friday, Feb. 15 under the big top at Tuttle Avenue and 12th Street, across from Ed Smith Stadium. Wallenda is still riding high after crossing Niagara Falls before more than 13 million people watching on TV on June 15, 2012. This summer, he is preparing to cross the Grand Canyon this summer, without the aide of a safety harness.
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.
Nik Wallenda Coverage:
• Wallenda Requests Approval To Walk On Wire Over U.S. 41
• It's Nik Wallenda Day in Sarasota (VIDEO)
• Sarasota Invited To Welcome Home Nik Wallenda
• Late Night Shows Have Fun With Wallenda
• Episode Recap: Nik Wallenda's 'Danger By Design'
• 13 Million Watched Nik Wallenda Walk Over Niagara Falls
• Nik Wallenda: Wallenda Completes Walk Across Niagara Falls
• Nik Wallenda Over Niagara: The World Is Watching
• Wallenda To Walk Niagara Falls Tightrope June 15
• Daredevil Wallenda To Speak At Ringling