Skydiving without jumping out of an airplane, or using a parachute, might become a popular activity in Overland Park one day.
IFly Indoor Skydiving, of Austin, Texas, is setting its sights on opening a new location on the southeast corner of Interstate 435 and Metcalf Avenue, where the former Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grille used to sit.
But the plan hit a snag Monday night with the Overland Park City Council because of the unusually shaped building needed for the experience.
The iFly company offers a free-fall experience inside a vertical wind tunnel, which generates a wall-to-wall cushion of air, allowing customers to safely float.
At its meeting Monday evening, council members seemed unimpressed with illustrations of the looming 60-foot structure, which features two columns on the sides of the wind tunnel. The connection between the columns cannot have materials added to them, such as brick or stone, because of vibration from the air flow.
Councilman Terry Goodman summed up most of the council’s thoughts by saying he didn’t feel comfortable approving such an odd-shaped building in a key part of town, especially if the venue shut down.
He insisted there needed to be a stipulation for the developer that if the facility closed, there would be funding and mechanisms to remove the building.
“The last thing we need is a vacant iFly building at this prime location,” Goodman said. “It’s not a building you can just reuse.”
Curt Petersen, the legal representative for the company, said that the base of the proposed building is approximately 5,000 square feet, which is the size of a typical restaurant. If necessary, the structure above could be taken down, he told Goodman.
Goodman, and other council members, also expressed concern over the parking situation for that type of facility. And they said the layout of the area might need to be changed to accommodate such a building.
Councilman Dave Janson wondered if there is even a demand for the unusual activity.
Petersen replied there absolutely is a demand.
“We are here with a world-class international product that will draw people on a regional basis,” he said. “The look is iconic and I feel like the city would embrace it. Not a single facility has closed and it’s extremely popular.”
The facility would be used for more than just entertainment, Petersen added, but also education.
The company hosts school field trips, which feature experiments, flight and safety training and flying, all while incorporating science, math and engineering concepts.
“It would be a huge asset to the community,” said Petersen.
The iFly website states that no experience is necessary and nearly anyone of any age can fly, including those with disabilities.
There are more than 25 iFly locations worldwide but the the Overland Park iFly location would be the only one in the Kansas City area or in the state of Kansas, Petersen said.
Although the council was wary of the building’s design, it wasn’t against the concept.
“I’m not totally opposed to the idea of iFly itself,” Goodman said. “I know the importance of tourism and this is an attraction that would promote that possibility. I think it’s an idea worth exploring.”
Instead of voting on the plan, the council unanimously remanded it back to the Planning Commission, so its concerns about parking and building reclamation could be addressed.
The council also addressed two other plans set for prime spots in Overland Park.
The council approved a public hearing to be set for March 16 about the establishment of a redevelopment district for a mixed-use development intended for 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue where Metcalf South and the K-Mart shopping center to the north are now.
The plan is set to include retail, restaurants, office space and luxury apartments.
The council also approved a public hearing on March 16 about the establishment of a redevelopment district for the substantial redevelopment of Gateway Plaza shopping center, at the northeast corner of 91st Street and Metcalf.