All permits are in place, all fees will be paid according to contract provisions, says daredevil as he prepares for next week’s event
PETER CONRADI/Bullet News
Daredevil Nik Wallenda says fees to the New York State parks department and to Ontario’s Niagara Parks Commission will be paid by the end of the week as required by his contracts with the two agencies.
Wallenda, speaking Tuesday to Bullet News Niagara, scoffed at the suggestion that permits are not in place and that his walk June 15 over the Horseshoe Falls is in danger of not happening.
“I don’t know where this stuff comes from,” he said. “There are so many totally wrong stories out there right now. It’s unbelievable.”
Reports began circulating Monday that the walk was up in the air because Wallenda had not yet signed an agreement with New York State parks. Wallenda said he in fact signed a contract weeks ago and has the permits. The $200,000-fee to the state was to be paid by the end of Tuesday, he said.
“That’s what’s in the contract,” Wallenda said from Branson. Mo., where he is producing and appearing in a circus show. “It’s $150,000 for security and $50,000 for a parks fee. It’s a lot of money, but that’s what it costs. People have no idea what it is taking to make sure this thing goes ahead. No one has any clue.”
Wallenda said the fees owing to the Niagara Parks Commission will be paid by the end of the week. The Canadian charges are substantially less than those levied in the United States. The NPC is billing Wallenda $105,000 plus HST for what Chairwoman Janice Thomson says are the ‘real expenses’ that the Commission must recover.
“We can’t have this costing the Parks Commission money,” she said. “We’re making sure it doesn’t. We can’t afford it. We don’t have any money. It can’t cost us a cent. A lot of thought and time went into preparing the contract. All we are doing is getting back the money we will have to spend on things like security and staff overtime. We haven’t come up with any special ‘Nik Wallenda fees.’ The costs are the real costs to us.
“We have detailed all the expenses we believe are related to him and we believe they are very fair. They include overtime for police and staff, we will have the Niagara Falls Fire Department there standing by and to provide protection, we’re closing off Table Rock, we’re closing off the parking area. All of this costs us money and impacts our business and our visitors.”
Thomson said Wallenda will also post a $50,000-letter of credit which the Parks Commission will use in case it has to mount any kind of rescue. If none is required, Wallenda will get that back.
“He has his own safety team, but if the worst thing were to happen it would still involve our police and emergency personnel,” Thomson said. “There would be a cost to us.”
Thomson said any money the Commission makes will be through the sale of Wallenda memorabilia that weekend or through increased concession revenue. She said no prices have been increased for the event. She said a Wallenda T-shirt, for example, will sell for $20 or $25.
Making money – or at least not coming away in debt – continues to be a concern for Wallenda. A week ago he told Bullet News he is disappointed and surprised local businesses aren’t embracing his event as enthusiastically as he’d hoped.
“I’m worrying about the finances and I should be thinking about the walk,” Wallenda said. “It’s disheartening. A lot of people said they were behind us when we were trying to get the walk approved. Well, where are they now? They’re not stepping up and they need to step up. They need to get involved because this isn’t cheap. This is costing me a lot of money and I don’t want to come away from this with a mortgage.”
Wallenda figures the walk is going to cost him almost $1.3 million by the time he has paid for security requirements and safety teams – which he used as selling points to convince the Niagara Parks Commission to break with tradition and allow the walk to take place. However, Wallenda said only about $800,000 has been raised, including money from his contract with ABC, which will broadcast the walk live in a three-hour special.
“It feels like a lot of people are making money off me, by using my name and this event,” Wallenda added. “But they’re not willing to do the things they promised. I’m really disappointed in that. This is causing me a great deal of stress and it’s taking my focus away from where it should be. This is not an easy thing I’m trying to do here. I need the community to get behind it.
“People may not believe this, but I’m not making money here. They think because you have a TV contract you’re making millions. That’s not true. I might not make any money at all. I just don’t want to lose money. We have a lot of bills to pay.”
To help pay those bills, Wallenda has taken to the Internet to solicit donations. He’s set up a website on indiegogo.com to try to raise $50,000 for “training, rigging, marketing, travel, safety and unforeseen issues.”
You can click here to donate from $5 to $10,000 to receive a variety of gifts. The low-end pledge will get you a digital photograph, while coming in with $10,000 buys a personal visit from Wallenda to your house. He’ll set up a tightrope in your backyard and provide a two-hour wire-walk lesson.
So far almost $6,000 has been donated.
“We are still trying to raise money to pay for the event,” Wallenda said. “Nik Wallenda is not making a penny right now. Right now when the walk is over I will get off the wire and spend 20 minutes with Janice (Niagara Parks Comission Chairwoman Janice Thomson) and some others who helped me, then I will get in a limo and go the U.S. for my press conference.
“Right now I feel like I am being undercut by local people. There were a lot of businesses that talked like they were going to be a big part of this and they are not stepping up at all. Everyone talked huge, but now that the event is happening everyone is quiet. The fact is that a lot of people talked the talk and didn’t walk the walk. I can’t even sleep at night. We got the attention of the world but no one is stepping up.”
Wallenda’s post-walk news conference will be at the Seneca Casino in Niagara Falls, N.Y., site of his practice sessions.
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati said he sympathizes with Wallenda’s plight and is working hard to assist the aerialist in generating funds.
“We want this to be win-win,” Diodati said. “We don’t want him to come away from this having lost money.”