White River State Park and Arts & Entertainment, etc. and State Government and Conner Prairie and State Agencies and Tourism & Hospitality

White River park passes on balloon

June 8, 2009

Conner Prairie has $2.2 million riding on a ballooning exhibit that opened June 6. One thing that won't stand in the way of its success is a competing ride--at least not at White River State Park.

Commissioners of the downtown park decided against bringing in Aerophare, a French-designed balloon ride. The balloon would have been contained inside a helical tower and lifted passengers 20 stories high.

Local businessmen Tim Coughlin and Tony Sandlin pitched Aerophare to the park commission in January, just a few months after Conner Prairie announced it would bring in a tethered balloon ride as part of a new exhibit based on a historic ballooning experiment in Lafayette.

"Basically, we just chose not to compete with Conner Prairie and their attraction," said Bob Whitt, executive director of the state park.

Whitt said the potential for competition reminded him of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis' failed CineDome. The $15 million theater opened in 1996, the same year an Imax theater came to White River State Park. The Children's Museum later turned the CineDome into a dinosaur exhibit. "Obviously, only one of them survives today," Whitt said. Aerophare isn't the last new attraction White River State Park commissioners will consider. "In the original plan for the park, there was a tower you could climb up and get a nice view of the skyline," Whitt said. A new attraction might be "something along those lines."

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