Downtown zip line owner fears Fremont Street Experience officials are trying to take his business
Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
The owner of Flightlinez took a risk two years ago when he brought zip lines to Fremont Street.
Today, the attraction is a soaring success. In fact, it lures so many riders and is so profitable that the Fremont Street Experience itself is reportedly considering taking it over.
Ian Green, founder of Flightlines Las Vegas, Inc., recently told VEGAS INC he is concerned that the Fremont Street Experience’s board of directors is developing plans that would eliminate his company as the operator of the attraction.
Tom Bruny, a spokesman for the Fremont Street Experience’s board, said it is in negotiations with Flightlinez. He would not elaborate further on plans.
The downtown zip lines have been a traffic-generating success. Since the attraction opened in October 2010, a million people have ridden the 800-foot lines underneath the Viva Vision canopy.
Rides cost $15 before 6 p.m. and $20 after 6 p.m., and Flightlinez has made good money off the attraction. But the founder also has used the ride to raise $200,000 for local charities.
So why would the operators of the Fremont Street Experience want the zip-line company out?
Flightlinez operates zip-line attractions around the world, including one at Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City that opened in 2008.
“Before we came in, Fremont was dead and Neonopolis was empty,” Green said. “What we proposed was somewhat of a high-risk venture, but we’ve had some good fortune, and we think we’ve been vital in helping in the transformation of the area.”
Between Flightlinez and a separate photography business that takes pictures of people who ride the zip lines, the venture has created about 70 jobs.
Lines of zip-line customers snake down Fremont Street, and adventure seekers often wait more than an hour for their turn.
A year ago, discussions began about plans to extend the zip line by building a new platform at Fremont Street East and one near the Plaza. At the time, Jeff Victor, president of the Fremont Street Experience, embraced the concept.
“Right now, expanding is a fun idea,” Victor told the Sun last year. “There’s a goal in mind, and we’ll see if we can get there. We don’t have a gun to our heads, but we’d like to have at least a portion of it up and running by spring.”
But in the same story, he also said, “We’re exploring all our options going forward. It could be Flightlinez, it could be a different company, it could be us” operating the attraction.
When spring came and nothing happened, Green’s company released a statement giving more details about its plans for a new tower and an expansion of the lines.
“The Flightlinez permanent tower design incorporates a unique stand-alone tower system that has been proven in such challenging locations as the shorelines of Haiti to the hilltops of Rwanda,” the company’s statement said. “(It) has now been engineered to be the foundation for Flightlinez and Fremont’s continued success as the premiere zip-line attraction on earth.”
Now, Green said, he is hearing that the Fremont Street Experience board wants to build an $11 million structure and run the attraction itself.
“We are feeling somewhat at risk,” Green said. “We want to continue to grow in Vegas, just like we have in Boulder City.”
Bruny wouldn’t disclose plans, saying only that the Fremont Street Experience will make an announcement when details are finalized.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who in June signed a proclamation for Flightlinez Day to honor the company’s contributions to local nonprofit groups, said she’s supportive of Flightlinez’s efforts but added that the Fremont Street Experience board should be the decision-maker in the process.
“They’ve done a great job,” Goodman said of Green’s team. “They’ve made some great contributions to our local charities, and they’ve brought a lot of young people into downtown. But the Fremont Street board, which is representative of the downtown properties, is ultimately responsible for what happens there.”