UPDATED: APRIL 7, 2016 1:26 PM — Austin-based SkyVenture, parent company to I-Drive's original indoor skydiving attractioniFLY Orlando, is weeks away from breaking ground on its new flagship location near Pointe Orlando.
The company's $12 million move from North International Drive is due in part to a unique land lease deal, born from the frustration of a local real estate broker and entrepreneur who realized last year his I-Drive mini-golf business wasn't living up to the profit potential of its address.
Located at 8969 International Drive, the 1.77-acre parcel is owned by Byblos Development, affiliate of Orlando-based Phoenicia Development.
Nabeel Ansari, owner-operator of the former Hawaiian Rumble Adventure Golf and owner-broker of Prime Properties International, held a long-term lease for the site when he heard last year from a family friend that iFly Orlando was looking for a new location.
"I knew mini-golf was not the highest and best use anymore for the property,"Ansari said. "So when I got wind that (iFLY) was looking to relocate, I called them up, they showed a lot of interest, I procured the LOI, got (property owner) Tom Harb involved and we worked out a deal."
Prepared as a sublease on the property, Ansari carved out a 14,000-square-foot pad for iFLY in the agreement, with about 12,000 square feet reserved as a pad for his own new land lease endeavor next door.
He's marketing his space, and says there's been a bevy of retail and dining interest thus far. Ansari will decide on plans for the pad this year, and may keep it and develop his own concept there, possibly a beer garden or bar-and-retail venue.
Regardless, the sublease payment from iFLY and Ansari's future dining/retail will generate more revenue from the site than his Hawaiian mini-golf ever did, he said.
iFLY now has applications in for its final building permits for the new location, which are expected to be finalized this month, with construction to start in early May by general contractor Whiting-Turner on site work and excavation, said Patrick Framel, vice president of development for SkyVenture.
Vertical construction should start two months after the foundation begins, potentially in July. Phoenicia hired William Edward Construction LLC of Orlando in early March to conduct demolition.
Originally dubbed SkyVenture Orlando when it opened in 1999, North I-Drive was the company's very first location. SkyVenture has now grown to more than 50 facilities worldwide in 12 countries.
It's new site for iFly Orlando "will be state-of-the-art and a flagship location for us," Framel said. "We chose to do this in Orlando because of how successful we've been there for a long time, and as a testament to what the I-Drive tourist market has done for us."
iFLY's new one-story building will feature two wind tunnel tubes, unlike its current I-Drive facility and the vast majority of its operations that have just one. With a wind tunnel height of 35 feet inside, the building footprint will be up against I-Drive to activate the pedestrian frontage, unlike the previous mini-golf attraction.
Framel estimates SkyVenture's investment will be $12 million in the new facility, with a projected opening of First Quarter 2017.
iFLY Orlando's current location at 6805 Visitors Circle, near the intersection if I-Drive and Universal Boulevard, may continue operating even after the new location opens, Framel said. SkyVenture owns that property, and could market it for sale.
However, Framel says his company is the patent inventor of the wind tunnel technology that InflightDubai's parent company has licensed for its wind tunnel in the United Arab Emirates. SkyVenture could restrict that licensee from using the technology in a competitive market like Orlando's International Drive, he said.
Inflight Dubai says that licensee restriction is not valid, and their Orlando development is moving forward, said Chuck Whittall, president of Unicorp National Developments, the developer behind I-Drive 360.