Downtown balloon set for summer

Insurance problem ends for HyFlyer owner

May 24, 2002|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

The HyFlyer is flying high again.

The tourist balloon that bobbed over downtown for months last year returns to the sky this afternoon for a second season after a snag over insurance rates was resolved.

"From this weekend on, we'll basically be open most of the week," said Lee Raskin, who developed the attraction next to the Port Discovery children's museum.

Raskin had intended to resume the balloon rides early last month. But he learned that his insurance premium had spiked from $190,000 to $360,000 as part of an industry-wide trend of rising rates, and could not afford it.

Only recently was Raskin able to lower that premium by reducing the ride's liability coverage, from $30 million to $10 million.

That reduction required approval of the Maryland Transit Administration because part of the Shot Tower subway station sits under the balloon's base and one of two entrances is next to it.

"We agreed that would be an amount all parties could live with," said MTA spokesman Frank Fulton.

In addition, Raskin said, he promised to limit each ride to 20 passengers.

Raskin said he was able to find an insurance carrier to underwrite $10 million of coverage for $115,000. That means his partnership, Sky High of Maryland LLC, shaved $75,000 off last year's premium.

The balloon's ascension is good news not only for Raskin, who is opening in time for the traditional Memorial Day start of the summer tourist season. It is also good news for Port Discovery, which uses the balloon as an advertisement.

The top of the balloon rises to 450 feet, tethered to the ground by a steel cable, with the gondola itself reaching 400 feet.

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