Plans to build a two-story tall indoor skydiving tunnel are a little bit closer to taking flight.
The proposal — a new building to house the unique attraction at Skydive Long Island in the Enterprise Park at Calverton — will be subject to a public hearing over requested tax incentives in December, after members of Riverhead’s Industrial Development Agency expressed support for the proposal, with one member of the board calling the plan a “home run.”
“That’s a really great project,” said IDA executive director Tracy Stark-James at the board’s meeting Monday night in Riverhead Town Hall. “It’s truly a regional draw.”
Skydive Long Island owner Ray Maynard and Barbara Schiano, his wife, told the board their planned attraction would not only allow skydivers to practice jumps in a safe environment, but would also draw tens of thousands more into town during the typical skydiving off-season to experience the indoor wind tunnel — without having to get in a plane.
“There are many people who just go to these indoor wind tunnels to experience freefall who never go skydiving,” Ms. Schiano said.
Skydive Long Island would build a four-story tall building to house the 18-feet high, 14.5-foot wide vertical wind tunnel, which would use giant fans to lift customers into the air.
“It’s going to bring a lot more people to the town,” Mr. Maynard said, adding that the nearest indoor skydiving attractions were in New Hampshire and North Carolina.
Mr. Maynard also said that, while tunnels are used by professional skydivers to train, the general public could buy time inside the tunnel with an instructor in 2-minute blocks. Up to six experienced skydivers could use the tunnel for practicing formation diving.
The project — estimated to cost between $4.5 million to $5 million — would also feature glass running windows along the side of the tunnel, allowing onlookers to see in. It would take up to a year to build the structure, Ms. Schiano said.
Skydive Long Island — which has been in operation out of Calverton since 2000 — is asking for three types of tax incentives: a sales tax exemption, a mortgage tax exemption and a deal on its real property taxes, Ms. Stark-James said.
The sales tax exemption would apply to all construction material purchases, from building supplies to lighting fixtures for the new building.
Skydive Long Island has already secured partial funding for the project through the U.S. Small Business Administraiton, which doesn’t require mortgage tax to be paid. The local mortgage recording tax exemption would apply to the remainder not covered under the SBA and would eliminate the usual 1.05 percent tax.
The final incentive is to reduce the real property tax assessment, Ms. Stark-James said. The IDA’s standard property tax abatement reduces the assessed value of the new additions to the property by 50 percent. The property would gain an additional 5 percent on its assessed value each year until it hit the full 100 percent of its value, Ms. Stark-James said.
For example, if a property were worth $50,000 and another $10,000 in assessed value were added, the property’s abated assessed value would be $55,000 in the first year of the abatement, increasing by 5 percent each year until it reached the full $60,000.
While the 50 percent initial abatement is the typical IDA offer, Ms. Stark-James said Skydive Long Island was planning to request more of an abatement from the IDA. While board members didn’t reveal whether they would support the incentives, all expressed admiration for Mr. Maynard, a longtime local business owner.
The proposed incentives will be open for public comment at the IDA’s next meeting in early December. In the meantime, Ms. Schiano said the company is working on getting the necessary zoning permits to build the new attraction.
“This is going to be another iconic attraction [for Riverhead],” she said. “There’s nothing like it in the area.”