Extreme Cedar Rapids? Group wants zip lines over Cedar River

Plans tied to endeavor to launch new end-of-summer festival

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids is about to get extreme thanks to two zip lines slated to fly over the Cedar River next summer.

Riders would zip across cables spanning between the New Bohemia District and Czech Village. A vendor would be hired to erect towers in the two districts, but exact locations are still under review, said Aaron McCreight, executive director of GO Cedar Rapids, the tourism bureau behind the effort.

“We plan to fly over the river all summer long in 2018,” McCreight said. “It would be symbolic. Here’s where we’ve been and here’s where we are now.”

The zip lines are loosely tied to an endeavor to create a new annual summer festival to mark the end of summer that would, at least in the first year, pay tribute to the 10th anniversary of the 2008 flood, which is next June. The festival is slated for early August, McCreight said.

“We are proposing a signature event in August of 2018,” McCreight said. “It would be a festival, music, art, speaking series, more than anything ever attempted here, quite honestly, and certainly by our organization.”

The zip lines would create a summerlong attraction that incorporates the river and culminates with the festival, he said.

“We wanted it to be more than a weekend, music-only festival,” he said. “We wanted something more long lasting.”

McCreight said his organization is in discussion about the zip lines with a vendor who is expected to make a site visit and could recommend locations for the towers. Plans call for the zip lines to be in place for the summer, not permanently. The vendor would likely also staff the rides, and there would be a charge, McCreight said.

The concepts for zip lines and a “signature” festival have been percolating within the organization for more than a year, he said. They came to light this week when GO Cedar Rapids asked the city for a $250,000 advance of its hotel-motel tax revenue share. The organization gets about $1 million a year from the city from the lodging taxes.

The organization would either repay the amount by Sept. 1, 2018, or have its share of hotel-motel tax allocations reduced by that amount. The money is needed to sign contracts, book talent, set up the zip lines and secure venues. McCreight said GO Cedar Rapids plans to repay the loan through ticket sales and sponsorships.

The City Council unanimously approved the request at its Tuesday meeting.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said extreme experiences are common at state and county fairs, and the limited time nature of the zip line makes it that much more appealing. Plus, a zip line over a river will be a unique experience in Iowa, he said.

“You don’t get to do these very often,” he said. “This can be a very successful event.”

He equated the planned August event as being on par with the scale of the Freedom Festival around the Fourth of July.

City Council members on Tuesday credited GO Cedar Rapids for bringing new ideas and “thinking big.” Ann Poe urged GO Cedar Rapids officials to pay tribute to the 2008 flood, which was “a big day in the history of Cedar Rapids.”

“It’s a great idea,” City Council member Justin Shields said. “You have a lot of support across the city.”

Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said the 2018 event stems from refocusing the tourism bureau’s mission a few years ago to include conceiving and planning major events. The city agreed to provide more money.

“We wanted to push for new events different from other communities and what we’ve had in the past,” Pomeranz said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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