Sarasota set for Nik Wallenda skywalk over U.S. 41

wtatangelo@bradenton.comJanuary 29, 2013 

SARASOTA -- The city is ready for its big day.

Sarasota will close U.S. 41 between Ringling Boulevard and the John Ringling Causeway in downtown Tuesday while Sarasota native and world-famous aerialist Nik Wallenda walks over the highway.

Wallenda's walk will cross roughly 600 feet of open space at a height of 180 feet in the air from the Unconditional Surrender statue to the top of the Marina Tower building.The anticipated Sarasota skywalk will be attempted without a net. Wallenda also will not be wearing a safety harness.

The road closure is expected to occur from 10:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., with the event scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Traffic congestion is expected from 9 a.m. until noon. Road closure signs will be posted and motorists should follow the detour signs. Traffic will remain open to and from St. Armands Circle and the barrier islands.

Due to a public safety perimeter that will be established, public parking near the bayfront will be limited. Spectators are encouraged to walk to the event or park their vehicles in the Palm Avenue garage.

A free trolley also will shuttle spectators round-trip from the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall parking lot at 777 N. Tamiami Trail to the event, with a drop-off at the intersection of Cocoanut Avenue and Gulfstream Avenue. The trolley will run from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The Sarasota City Commission unanimously approved Wallenda's skywalk without a tether during its last regular meeting a week ago, providing Wallenda received approval from the Florida Department of Transportation, which oversees U.S. 41, and that he offers a satisfactory statement indemnifying the city of Sarasota.

The commission also waived the special event permits for the skywalk totaling approximately $6,000-$8,000, according to a recent press release issued by the city of Sarasota.

Wallenda holds a $20 million insurance policy, claiming it covers mental distress if anyone witnesses him falling.

He's a six-time Guinness world record holder for aerial feats. Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls last year.

Circus Sarasota is the sponsor of Wallenda's Sarasota Skywalk.

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057.Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo.

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