Thursday, 28 June 2012

Niagara Falls mayor wants sculpture honouring Wallenda’s wirewalk near Table Rock

Niagara Falls mayor wants sculpture honouring Wallenda’s wirewalk near Table Rock

PETER CONRADI from /Bullet News
An event as important as Nik Wallenda’s wirewalk across the Horseshoe Falls deserves a grand gesture of commemoration. So Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati wants to erect a bronze sculpture of the 32-year-old daredevil near Table Rock, marking the point where Wallenda stepped off the cable to the delight of about 100,000 observers who had packed the Parkway.
“It was historic – we should do something to remember it and keep the momentum going,” Diodati said following Tuesday’s council meeting. “I don’t know what it would cost or who would do it. We can’t let what happened here (June 15) just fade away. It was the most watched event in the world that night. We have to build on that.”
Diodati envisions some kind of interactive statue depicting Wallenda walking with his long balance poles, and the falls in the background. The interactive part would be where people could join Wallenda on the make-believe wire for photos.
“Can you imagine what that would be like? Everyone would get that photo and be posting it all over social media – the pictures would be on Twitter, Facebook, you name it. Niagara Falls would be out there constantly. It would be incredible.”
Niagara Parks Commission Chairwoman Janice Thomson, while not rejecting the mayor’s idea outright, said plans are already in the works to honour Wallenda.
She said the Parks plans two boards paying tribute to the history of daredevils in the falls and to Wallenda personally are to be installed on the White Water Walk. In addition, a plaque will be placed near Table Rock.
“That’s what we are going to do,” Thomson said.
There is precedent for statues on Parks Commission property. For example, Nikola Tesla, who designed the first hydroelectric power plant in Niagara Falls, N.Y. and invented alternating current, has a monument in Queen Victoria Park. There is also tribute to England’s King George.
On a smaller, more immediate scale, Wallenda is expected back in Niagara Falls in about a month to attend a reception with some of the local business people who contributed money to help what was appearing to be a floundering mission. In the weeks leading up to the walk, Wallenda was critical of businesses for, he said, not living up to financial promises that could leave him in a financial hole. It is believed the cost for staging the walk was $1.3 million and that Wallenda was able to raise about $800,000 of that. Diodati helped broker monetary support from some of the local Business Improvement Area boards, totalling about $200,000. The Tourism Partnership of Niagara, the provincially funded stakeholder association, kicked in $25,000.
Diodati also said he would like to bring Wallenda back from time to time as a way of paying tribute to his accomplishment. The Niagara Parks Commission also might consider inviting Wallenda back, but right now there are no plans to do so.
Thomson told Bullet News that Wallenda’s obligations to the Commission ended the day following the June 15 walk when he attended some public functions. She said there is nothing in the NPC contract with the daredevil to have him back to Niagara for future promotional appearances.
“That could be something we would look at,” Thomson said. “I can’t really say when that might happen. It’s something the Commission would consider.”
Wallenda spoke at length prior to the walk about his desire to forge a close relationship with Niagara Falls. He floated the idea of starting a local theatre where he and his family could perform their circus act. Talk of that fell to the back burner as the walk grew near, but Diodati believes Wallenda was sincere.
“I didn’t press him right away because he had so much else on his mind. But I think he meant it. I think he still wants to do it.”
Wallenda could not be reached for comment, but said previously he wanted to make Niagara Falls his second home.
“Why wouldn’t I? Look at the crowds that come through Niagara Falls. I wouldn’t be a very good businessman if I didn’t consider something like that.”
Wallenda, 32, is part of the famed circus family the Flying Wallendas.
“It’s always been a big dream to have a Wallenda family show that runs at least all summer. Why not have a Nik Wallenda theatre with a show three-six months of the year? This has been the ultimate goal all along. This is definitely not a one-off thing.”
Wallenda said he and investors have scouted some locations for a facility.
“We haven’t got too far along with that part, but we have some big sponsors who want to be a part of all of this. I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the big European tents they have now, but those things are amazing. We own some of those already with a partner that I work with, so we could definitely do a temporary facility until we have something permanent.”

Part of the Niagara Park Commission’s agreement with Wallenda was that stunts like his could only take place once every 20 years. The Parks Commission, however, knows it will receive applications for more daredevil acts, even if not a tightrope walk across the gorge.

Thomson said she is happy the walk was staged and completed safely by Wallenda, with no damage to the Parks, and that no one watching suffered injury. The Parks Commission charged Wallenda $105,000 to cover costs such as staff overtime. In addition, Wallenda posted a $50,000 line of credit in the event a rescue was required, or to cover damage to the Park.

NPC Manager of Business Development, Events and Promotions Sarah Wood told a board of directors meeting last week that the deposit was returned to Wallenda after an inspection of the area determined no harm had come to the gorge or the surrounding area.
Wood complimented Wallenda and his assistants for the ‘professional’ approach they brought to the job, and said they were easy to deal with. She also said Parks staff had the area clean up and back to normal by 3 p.m. the day after the walk.
The Parks Commission may have made a profit by selling Wallenda memorabilia in its gift shops, but Thomson said those numbers have not been calculated