Plans for a Baltimore balloon ride on the rise

City committee grants preliminary approval

January 14, 2000|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

The balloon man's dream is heading skyward.

Despite questions about whether it would pop or create traffic jams, a Baltimore committee granted preliminary approval yesterday to a Pikesville businessman's proposal to create a balloon ride north of the Port Discovery children's museum.

Lee Raskin, representative of the Sky High of Maryland balloon company, showed the city's Design Advisory Panel sketches of a 110-foot high helium balloon with a ring-shaped gondola and a colorful "Port Discovery" advertisement on its side.

The five-member committee, which advises the city administration on architectural and planning questions, unanimously endorsed the concept -- but said Raskin must come back and win final approval. A date has not been set.

"I think its very exciting and would be very instructive in teaching people about the city by letting them see it from the sky," said Phoebe Standon, a panel member. "I think it will be wonderful for children."

Panoramic view

The balloon would rise about 400 feet on a tether anchored to the ground in a plaza at the southwest corner of Baltimore and President streets.

Visitors would pay less then $10 for a ticket -- the final price has not been decided -- for a 15-minute ride that gives them a panoramic view of the city, according to a presentation yesterday by the Design Collective planning company of Baltimore.

Port Discovery might offer a joint admission program, so people paying to enter the children's museum could also ride the balloon, said Kathy Southern, president of the museum. The museum might create exhibits on the history of flight and ballooning.

The balloon would be created by Per Lindstrand, a Swedish balloon adventurer and balloon company owner who tried unsuccessfully to fly around the world in December 1998. Lindstrand Balloons has created similar rides in Polk City, Fla., and in England, Spain and Portugal.

Lure to visitors

Panel members were enthusiastic about the concept, saying it might lure visitors to the plaza between Port Discovery and a proposed Cordish Co. entertainment complex at 34 Market Place.

Company officials said the balloon would not deflate if someone were to shoot at it because it has several compartments and is made of a self-sealing material that would clog a bullet hole.

Another panel member asked whether drivers on Interstate 83 might be distracted by the large balloon.

Company officials assured the panel that the project would be safe.

"These balloons are built to aircraft standards, and everyone operating the balloon will be highly trained," said Raskin.

He added that the strength of the cable attaching the balloon to the ground will allow it to take 48 tons of pressure. Under normal operating conditions, the balloon would create about four tons of pressure.

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