Businessman floats idea for balloon ride in Baltimore

January 13, 2000|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

At night, it would hover above downtown Baltimore's skyline as bright as the moon. By day, it would offer dizzying views of the Inner Harbor and Chesapeake Bay.

A Pikesville businessman is proposing to build a balloon ride next to the Port Discovery children's museum on President Street that would lift customers 400 feet into the air -- higher than the city's tallest building.

Lee Raskin, a representative of Sky High of Maryland balloon company, hopes to win a lease on the city-owned plaza near the Market Place subway station after a presentation this morning before a city design review panel.

Advocates of the $1 million project say the 110-foot-tall helium balloon with its hoop-shaped gondola would draw more visitors north from the Inner Harbor to the often-silent plaza between Port Discovery and the Cordish Co. entertainment complex being built at 34 Market Place.

Skeptics worry it might not be tastefully done -- perhaps looking like a carnival ride, bobbing up and down like a huge light bulb at night, with lights blazing.

"I think this kind of thing should be in an amusement park, and not in the city's business district, where we should have more of a conservative atmosphere," said Roberto Marsili, president of the Little Italy Community Organization.

The proposal for the plaza beside Market Place is in its early phases. The company needs financing for the project, a lease from the city and approval from the city's Design Advisory Panel and the state, according to company and city officials.

A more-than-400-foot-long tether would connect the balloon to its launching pad north of Port Discovery. Up to 30 people would ride in the gondola straight up and down, with each ride about 15 minutes long, Raskin said.

"It would be a very exciting ride," said Raskin.

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