Gadling Exclusive: Downtown Vegas zipline to open Friday

They’ve made it possible for you to fly over the ocean off the Haitian coast, through the scenic Pacific Ranges of Canada and the the Wild Animal Park in San Diego. And this Friday, Greenheart LLC opens its latest zipline above a different sort of native habitat, that of the Vegas Party Animals.

By the end of this week, tourists are expected to able to shoot across steel lines above the crowds milling about at the Fremont Street Experience, the five-block-long pedestrian plaza in the downtown section that is capped by a metal canopy. The underside of that canopy is the world’s largest outdoor LED screen projects light shows at the top of each hour.

The Fremont Street Experience

At the Fremont Street Flightline, passengers will leap from a platform 60 feet high and glide 800 feet down one of four lines at speeds of up to 25 mph to a 14-foot-high landing near the performance stage. As with other ziplines, including the ones Greenheart has built in Haiti, Whistler, Canada, San Diego and 30 miles away in rural Boulder City, Nev., riders hang from the steel line in a harness and can speed up or slow down depending on their body position. Precautions are being devised to keep riders from dropping loose items on revelers below.

“The reality is, the world’s most spectacular trails are all in the air,” said Ian Green, co-owner of Greenheart, which also opens a series of four 100-foot-high bridges in the Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda. “They’re trails that give you a very different experience. The experience of flying through something is a lot different.”

Fremont Zipline plans to charge $20 per rider from 6 p.m. to midnight, $15 from 2 to 6 p.m., and $10 per re-ride, although that structure could change.

The zipline landed a 90-day permit on Monday from the city’s building department and must get Las Vegas City Council approval to build a permanent structure after that. Green, who has plunged $150,000 into the temporary towers and lines, hopes to elongate the attraction to the entire length of the Fremont Street Experience – more than doubling the length – if that comes to pass.

The world’s most spectacular trails are all in the air. The experience of flying through something is a lot different.

“If it works the way we think it’s going to work, then we would absolutely consider making it bigger and better and longer and permanent,” said Fremont Street Experience president Jeff Victor, who was approached just one month ago by Gree about the idea.

Downtown Las Vegas has been particularly depressed by the lousy economy and competition with the flashier Strip, so the addition of an exciting new offering may be a significant shot in the arm. Green said he expects to hire a dozen workers, which is good news for a city facing more than 14 percent unemployment.

“A lot of people in this town really love this area because it’s historic, so what we’re doing is providing a fantastic attraction to an entire area and try to bring money in to keep this place going,” said general manager Max Margolis.

Green rushed to get this up and running this week because he’s already got his first promotion in mind: The International Broom Racing Championships. Details are sketchy so far, but the plan is to have contests for best broom, fastest zipline time and most creative contest and to time it with October Frightfest, the FSE’s Halloween events.

The Fremont Street Flightline will be a bit more genteel than Greenheart’s others, which have longer lines and go at faster speeds with steeper drops. But Green hopes the location will increase his company’s visibility and pique interest in their four-line system in Boulder City, the town on the way to the Hoover Dam where riders can get up to 50 mph and see the Vegas skyline.

And speaking of the Vegas skyline, that’s his next target. Greenheart has been in talks for more than a year with the Excalibur casino on the Strip about a zipline that would scale the famous themed casino’s castle towers.

“The good thing with Fremont is we’re still a small company, we are still unknown,” he said. “So the opportunity to do Fremont is the opportunity to be known. The great thing about Vegas is anything’s possible.”