11/05/13 7:49am
11/05/2013 7:49 AM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | (L-R) IDA executive director Tracy Stark-James takes notes as Skydive Long Island owner Ray Maynard and Barbara Schiano speak to the IDA board Monday night.

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.”

COURTESY PHOTO | People skydiving in a vertical wind tunnel.

COURTESY PHOTO | People skydiving in a wind tunnel.

“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.”

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06/06/13 5:00pm
06/06/2013 5:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | People skydiving in a vertical wind tunnel.

Afraid of heights but love a thrill, nonetheless?

Well, Skydive Long Island has a new plan in the works that involves skydiving without jumping out of a plane.

The company, based sine 2000 at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, plans to build a vertical wind tunnel on David Court property.

“There’s a thing called indoor skydiving,” said Ray Maynard, SkyDive Long Island’s owner. “You basically have fans blowing the air up at about 156 mph.”

People in the wind tunnel stand in a cylinder that’s about 14 feet high and 16 feet wide and are lifted off the ground and suspended in air by the giants fans, he explained.

“You feel what a free fall feels like without having to worry if your parachute is going to open up,” Mr. Maynard said.

Indoor skydiving is not weather-dependent, it’s a little safer than regular skydiving and children as young as 3 can do it, Mr. Maynard said, although he doesn’t plan to allow kids that young to participate.

He outlined his plan Monday to the Riverhead industrial Development Agency, as he expects to seek IDA tax incentives for the proposed facility.

The vertical wind tunnel would measure 100 by 100 feet and would rise four stories high, Mr. Maynard said and will cost about $4.5 million to $5 million. He plans to build it on the same EPCAL property where Skydive currently operates.

“People who skydive with me presently are driving to New Hampshire or North Carolina to do this, and are spending thousands of dollars a week to do so,” Mr. Maynard told the IDA. “We would be the first such facility in the New York area.”

The wind tunnel will probably double the amount of visitors SkyDive gets, Mr. Maynard said, in part because it can operate year-round, whereas sky diving takes place only between April and November.

He told the IDA board that between 20 and 40 employees would be required to operate and maintain the wind tunnel.

IDA members seemed receptive to the plan, although executive director Tracy Stark-James said the project would also need variances for height and setback distances from the Zoning Board of Appeals and a variance from the Conservation Advisory Committee for being within 150 feet of a wetland.

IDA members said they expect to hold a public hearing on the request for tax abatements sometime in September. The IDA can give tax abatements for mortgage recording tax, sales tax on building supplies and on the assessed value increase of the improvements to the property.

Mr. Maynard said it would probably take about nine months to build the wind tunnel.

“Do you think you might have a zip line too?” IDA member Paul Thompson asked, jokingly referring to a recent proposal to put a zip line along the Peconic River in downtown Riverhead.

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