Visitors to two new businesses in Rosemont and Naperville will soon be able to fly -- if but for a moment, and with the help of some high-powered fans.
Construction on two iFly indoor sky diving facilities -- each one about 7,000 square feet with nearly 50-foot-high wind tunnels -- is nearing completion at both locations: in Rosemont's entertainment district and near a retail shopping area on Naperville's north side.
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iFly is scheduled to open in mid-May in Rosemont and mid-June in Naperville. Construction had been delayed because of the winter season, said Stuart Wallock, the company's chief marketing officer.
"You always want it to happen immediately, but when you build a large building in a complicated structure, it takes some time," Wallock said.
Company officials say the indoor sky diving facilities will be the first of their kind in the Midwest, and the 29th and 30th iFly locations in the world. The company opened its first facility in 1998.
The buildings utilize a recirculating air system to propel people into flight: large fans, located on the top of the buildings, blow wind down the sides into the basement, and up through the flight chamber.
"We have numerous patents on the technology," Wallock said. "Imagine one giant physics problem and we have solved the ability to fly and create terminal velocity inside the flight chamber."
Participants, wearing flight suits, helmets and goggles, enter the 14-foot-wide flight chamber with an instructor who is there to help the whole time.
"You actually stand in the doorway and the wind is in front of you. You lean into the wind with the help of the instructor, and the instructor helps you start to fly," Wallock said.
Wind speeds can reach as much as 200 mph -- the rate the most experienced flier can endure, though most folks will fly somewhere between 80 mph and 125 mph -- it all depends on each person's ability and size, Wallock said.
The average flier will rise some 16 feet in the air; the most experienced fliers can rise to the top of the chamber, which is 48 feet.
It costs about $60 to take a basic flying session, which includes two one-minute flights, training by an instructor and equipment rental.
Wallock said company officials chose to locate a facility in Naperville because the area's demographics reflect iFly's target clientele: families. They decided to build in MB Financial Park at Rosemont because of the other entertainment offerings there and high visibility of the building from the Tri-State Tollway.
"When people see the wind tunnel, they say, 'What is this thing?' It's a natural billboard," Wallock said.
Officials are estimating annual attendance of 100,000 at each location.
Rosemont's entertainment district is located east of I-294 and north of Balmoral Avenue. The Naperville iFly will be located on the southeast corner of Freedom Drive and Independence Avenue.