NIAGARA FALLS – Wire-walker Nik Wallenda said Thursday he has begun scouting sites in Niagara Falls for a “semi-permanent” Wallenda family entertainment center that could open as early as next summer.
Speaking on the American side of the falls in his first visit since crossing the Niagara gorge June 15, Wallenda did not rule out establishing the attraction – which he hopes to eventually make permanent – on the Canadian side but said his preference would be to put it in New York.
“The support from the community means a lot to me,” he said. “They were there with me from the beginning. If it was not for their support … I would not able to fulfill my dream, so because they gave to me, I want to give back.”
“My family’s roots date back to the 1780s and are in the circus, so it would be more theatrical and New Age, like Cirque du Soleil does, but involving, of course, high wire,” he said.
The Wallenda family is currently performing in a theatrical show at the Atlantic City Tropicana. He said he hopes to have a museum with daredevil artifacts and interactive activities as well as a full family show.
“We are working with a company right now to simulate where you could be on the wire just like I was, and feel the wind and even the water,” Wallenda said. A circus-style tent could be erected next summer.
State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, who appeared with Wallenda near the Cave of the Winds on Goat Island, said the New York side of the falls had the edge over Canada because of the availability of downtown properties ready for development.
Wallenda agreed but, when pressed, said paying for it could be a deciding factor in determining which side of the border would get the attraction.
“We’re talking to a lot of local business people on both sides, but this would be my preference, for sure,” he said. “It’s clear that we need something exciting and happening on this side, and this would definitely be that.
“The prime location is definitely available here,” said Wallenda, who also noted his U.S. citizenship.
Wallenda also said the $25,000 Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster sought from the wire-walker to cover additional costs of public safety during his walk is no longer an issue.
“I believe it’s been resolved,” Wallenda said. “I’m a man who forgives and forgets, that’s just the way I was raised in a very religious household; you don’t hold grudges ... We’ve already moved past that.” He did not elaborate.
Wallenda said he was likely to be walking across the Grand Canyon next May or June, but said making something happen in Niagara Falls next summer is still a top priority.
“There is a lot on my plate right now, but this is something on the forefront,” he said.
Maziarz also said the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had given their approval to erecting a permanent plaque or monument to mark Wallenda’s historic walk.
Wallenda praised 11-year-old Vincenzo Bianco for following in his footsteps by learning to walk on a wire four feet off the ground between two trees at his house on College Avenue in the Falls. His younger brother has squirted water at him as he walks to simulate the mist Wallenda experienced.
“Getting to meet someone who has inspired me to do what I do was pretty cool,” Vincenzo said.