The N.C. State Fair is trying again to find a company willing to build and operate a permanent sky ride on the fairgrounds.
Fair officials had hoped to have an “aerial lift” ride circling the fairgrounds at this fall’s fair, but that idea proved too complicated. Now they’re seeking proposals for a simpler sky ride, with a single leg that would cross the main midway.
The ride would have either chairlift-style seats or enclosed gondolas strung along cables that run about 1,400 feet from near Gate 8 and the Village of Yesteryear to a point just east of Restaurant Row. Fair officials hope to have it ready when the fair opens next fall.
Kent Yelverton, director of property and construction for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said the ride would serve two purposes: Give people a nice view of the fair, as well as carry them over the crowds as they go from one end of the midway to the other.
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“It will allow fairgoers the option to get from the west end of the fairgrounds to the east end without going through some of our heaviest-traveled walkways,” Yelverton said.
In May, State Fair officials proposed a chairlift in four segments moving in one direction, counter-clockwise, around the fairgrounds. Prospective bidders told fair officials that the scheme was too ambitious, and the state didn’t get a single bid.
“It was a large capital investment to ask someone to make when there’s no historical data on how a chairlift will be received at our event,” said Yelverton, who added that he expects the fair will have several proposals to consider this time around.
The winning bidder would be required to operate the sky ride only during the fair but would be free to run it any other times it wants as well. The company would be required to give the state 15 percent of gross ticket revenue during the first year, rising to a minimum of 25 percent by year six. The state wants to sign a 10-year lease, with an optional 10-year renewal.
The cost of a ride is one of the variables that the bidding companies must specify, Yelverton said. Proposals are due Dec. 2.