"It's a sport, not a ride," reads one sign posted on the observation deck of the new iFly indoor sky-diving center in Naperville.
The sport is an adrenaline rush that simulates the free fall of outdoor sky diving, and it became available Friday to thrill-seekers who want to stop one step short of jumping out of an airplane.
The center welcomed some of its first fliers at 1752 Freedom Drive as it became the latest addition to a growing hotel, restaurant and entertainment district on Naperville's north side. Nearby, construction continues on the Freedom Plaza development, which is bringing an Embassy Suites hotel with a banquet facility to seat 1,000 people, as well as four free-standing restaurants to the area by next year.
The Naperville facility is the area's second venue for indoor sky diving, after another iFly opened in May in Rosemont.
"Here it's all about precision, agility, speed and movement," said David Janossy, general manager of iFly Naperville. "Outdoor sky diving is about the view."
First-time fliers can pay $69.95 for a 15-minute lesson, rental of a flight suit, helmet, goggles and ear plugs, and two 1-minute sessions in the flight chamber -- a tall tunnel that gives the 67-foot high building its unusual shape.
A dozen instructors work at iFly, teaching people proper form for the easiest maneuver, basic belly flying.
"They'll guide you through the motions to help you relax and have a good time," Janossy said about the instructors, one of whom is always in the flight chamber when a customer is flying.
Instructors like David Schnaible communicate with fliers through hand signals because the flight chamber is too loud to use words. Four fans, each 10 feet wide with 350 horsepower, push chilled air from the top of the building down through tunnels on the side, then back up again, creating an upward draft in the flight chamber. With wind speeds between 80 mph and 175 mph, Schnaible said the flight chamber simulates the best part of sky diving.
"It feels exactly as the free fall portion would of a sky dive," Schnaible said.
Hand signals for "chin up," "legs straight," "legs bent," or "relax" help fliers stay in the center of the flight chamber instead of soaring like Superman toward its 1-inch thick glass walls.
"You're fine-tuning what you expose to the wind to keep you straight," Schnaible said.
The public is welcome to the observation deck when iFly is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.
Samir Lakhany, developer of the future Freedom Plaza hotel near iFly Naperville, said he's glad to have the uncommon recreation venue as one of his neighbors.
"I think that's great. It adds more diversity toward the mixed uses we have around that area," Lakhany said.
Freedom Plaza will have an Embassy Suites and four restaurants including Granite City Food & Brewery. Other restaurants are expected to be announced beginning in about a month.
Meanwhile, Lakhany said staff members already are fielding inquiries about renting the 13,000-square-foot banquet hall after the hotel is expected to open in May 2015. Naperville officials have wanted a large-scale conference and banquet facility for years, so they agreed to grant $7.5 million in incentives to Freedom Plaza developers to help offset the project's $50 million to $60 million cost.