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Article updated: 7/25/2013 12:45 PM

'iFly' indoor sky diving breezes through Naperville zoning commission

Naperville panel OKs indoor sky diving

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Indoor sky diving isn't just for international tourist destinations like Dubai or celebrities like Justin Bieber -- thanks to a company called iFly, it's also planned for Naperville and Rosemont and the everyday residents who call these suburbs home.

Members of the Naperville planning and zoning commission on Wednesday night became some of the first to hear iFly's plans to build a 9,800-square-foot indoor sky diving facility with a 50-foot-tall flight chamber at Freedom Commons on the city's north side.

Although the name "iFly" at first sounded like an airline office to commission Chairwoman Patricia Gustin, she and her fellow commissioners unanimously supported the company's request to build at the southeast corner of Freedom Drive and Independence Avenue.

Their approval of a change to plans for the Freedom Commons development and a sign variance means the Naperville City Council soon will decide whether iFly can come to town.

"I'm hearing this and I'm already buying into it and thinking I want to be the first one in that tube," Gustin said after learning about the proposal.

iFly wants to build a 67-foot-tall tower with a 20-foot-deep basement just north of Cooper's Hawk Winery to house a flight chamber and fan system that lets people "fly like a superhero," iFly spokesman Stuart Wallock said.

For $59.95 new customers get all the gear, training and expert assistance they need to sky-dive in the 14-foot-wide flight chamber for 30 minutes with 11 other fliers.

"We offer a completely safe environment in which to experience the same thrill and excitement of jumping out of an airplane and free-falling," Wallock said.

Without the jumping part.

"There's no jumping," he said. "That's a perception we have to overcome. You're actually leaning into the wind from the ground."

A bank originally was planned for the site on which iFly hopes to build, but it never was constructed. In granting approval Wednesday night, planning and zoning commission members said iFly fits with the intent of Freedom Commons, which is to "provide for dining, shopping and fitness amenities" to support nearby hotel guests, office workers and students.

"I never heard of this business before; I didn't know you could do this," Commissioner Robert Williams said about iFly, which the city staff classifies as a training studio. "This is a very cosmopolitan use. It's certainly going to be a people-magnet."

The tall, thin building has a smaller footprint than a restaurant of the same square footage, which allows additional parking to be built on site, said Bill Adams, president of the iFly Seattle location, who presented designs Wednesday night. Demand for parking is expected to be steady during iFly's hours of 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., but only a maximum of 36 spaces should be needed.

"As far as the parking, this is an absolute dream use for this site," said property owner William Krug. "Cooper's Hawk is very supportive of this use."

If plans gain city council approval, Naperville will become the second town in the Chicago area to offer indoor sky diving next spring. Wallock said an iFly location in the works in Rosemont is on track to be constructed first.

"Chicago is an important part of our growth plans," Wallock said. "It's an active audience; it's an audience that loves adventure, and that's what we're all about."

Indoor sky diving is open to people ages 3 to 103, iFly says, and people with disabilities also can participate. Weight limits are imposed for the safety of instructors and fellow fliers, but people can weigh up to 230 pounds if they are less than 6 feet tall, or up to 260 pounds if they are taller than 6 feet, Adams said.

"It's something to do that's very unique," Adams told planning and zoning commission members Wednesday. "It will become a community icon."

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