TOP Trails board members held a work session Tuesday evening for a presentation about the possibility of building a ZipRider cable ride at the park.
Leah Reddick, representing the C.D. Roberts and Associates firm, explained what a ZipRider is, gave a summary of its use in other places, and presented figures of projected revenue and expenses.
Reddick estimates 45,000 people each year will take the ride, with plans to have it open 330 days per year, allowing for closures because of weather.
Reddick said the ZipRider differs from other zip line attractions in several ways. The proposal is for four parallel cables that would cover a distance of 3,500 to 3,800 feet. Riders are not required to take any action to slow down or stop the ride, as is typical for zip lines, and it’s possible for paraplegics and quadriplegics to experience the ride.
There are currently eight ZipRiders in the U.S. and five in other countries. Most are at ski resorts, which use them as attractions during the summer months. One is accessible only by cruise ship in Alaska, and one is at the resort town of Branson, Mo.
Reddick said there are none in the southeast, and cited population figures for a 150-mile radius for most of the U.S. sites. For Talladega, the number cited was 9.8 million people. Other sites mentioned included Bromley, Vt., with 2.6 million, Wildcat Mountain, New Hampshire with 2.6 million, Branson with 1.4 million and Icy Strait Point, Alaska, which relies on cruise ship visitors for its customers.
Reddick said Talladega’s ZipRider would have the largest population draw, would be the second-longest ride and would be open more days than others, but would have one of the least steep angles of descent.
She said there would be a five-minute turnaround time, which means a new group of four riders could begin their ride every five minutes. At that rate, 576 people would be the maximum capacity in a 12-hour period.
Reddick projects annual revenue from the ZipRider of $1,125,000 assuming riders paid $20 per ride and $5 gate admission. (Gate admission increases to $10 in July.)
She also projects total annual operating expenses of $620,575. The total estimated cost of installation was projected at $3,168,841. About a fourth of that would go toward paving a road to the beginning of the ride and the purchase of two trams to take riders to the top.
Reddick said, using her projections, the installation would be paid for in 49 months.
Reddick said Roberts and Associates met with the USDA about the possibility of loans for the project. A no-interest loan from the agency was listed as the preferred option for financing the project.
Now in its third year, the revised 10-year Plan of Utilization for developing the park calls for beginning construction of the ride this year.
The plan calls for a wide-range of additional outdoor activities to be developed in the future. Those include horse and bicycle trails this year, construction of lakes next year, adding rock-climbing walls and a go-kart track in year five, motocross and paintball in year six, a swimming pool and children’s water park in year seven and developing baseball, softball and soccer fields in year nine.
Reddick said, “We feel this will be a great way to fund other areas of the park. We need board approval before someone else beats us to the punch.”
The next regular board meeting is July 9 at 7:30 a.m.