Sunset Walk Orlando, home to Margaritaville Resort, will add a new thrill ride next year that will give riders a bird’s eye view of the entertainment district.
Peter Brown, Central Florida asset manager for Encore, told GrowthSpotter this would be the only Skysurfer ride in the U.S. The first-ever Skysurfer debuted in Branson, Missouri, but has since closed. Brown said the Encore team traveled to Branson last year and saw the ride, which suspends surfboards from mechanized trolleys on a looped cable and tower system. Riders wear a safety harness but get the sensation of surfing through the air.
“It’ll go through Sunset Walk from the north end to the south end, and then it will loop around to the east and you’ll get a view into the water park,” Brown said. “It’ll start and end right up by 192, next to BurgerFi.”
The ride is owned by Skyline Ziplines, which has been in the resort zip line attraction business since 2005. The Skysurfer ride utilizes a lever-driven mechanism that seamlessly transfers the trolley between a compacted zip line cable and a machined aluminum rail system. Up to three surfers can ride at one time.
Skyline owner Kevin Smith said he bought the intellectual property rights for Skysurfer from the inventor and spent the last several years on research and development to improve the functionality and bring the ride up to ASTM amusement park standards.
Smith said the Branson course would not have met the ASTM standards, so they chose not to renew the lease when it expired. “But it was helpful as an R&D location for us because we used all our prototypes,” he said. “We’re on model four right now of the Skysurfer, so we basically refined the technology.”
When they open the new location here in the spring, it will be the only Skysurfer ride in the world.
Brown said the Orlando market is a better demographic and better climate for a ride like Skysurfer.
“I’m from Missouri, so I immediately knew why it didn’t work in Branson,” Brown said. “It’s a tourist area, but it’s seasonal. Branson is only warm about four months of the year. In Orlando, you’ll be able to do this all year.”
Brown said Skysurfer will complement the two rides already signed for Sunset Walk, the first of which will open this summer. Old Town Slingshot and Vomotron came on as a tenant in 2019. Construction is underway next to Studio Movie Grill on the Slingshot, a launch ride that propels passengers nearly 500 feet in the air at speeds in the region of 100 miles per hour.
Smith told GrowthSpotter his company will be investing up to $3 million to build the course and its 3-story ride tower and retail store. “So the bottom level is retail (point of sale) and photo sales, and the middle section is harnessing and non-harnessing. And then the third level is the launch deck.”
Each surfboard will be embedded with color-changing LED lights on the bottom surface, so visitors on the ground will be able to see the Skysurfers flying over them at night.
The Promenade at Sunset Walk Orlando features more than 20 merchants for dining, shopping, and entertainment. The tenant roster includes Rock & Brews, Ford’s Garage, Capone’s Coal Fired Pizza, Yeoman’s Cask & Lion, GameTime, Skechers, Estefan Kitchen, and El Jefe’s Tequila Taco Cantina.
The destination also hosts recurring events, including a monthly car and truck show, live band performances, and artisan farmers’ markets.
The Skysurfer deal comes as the Sunset Walk and Margaritaville are recovering from the lost season due to COVID. The reopening of the economy has been a boon to tourist destinations. Brown said Margaritaville Hotel ran at 94% occupancy in April, leading the development team to activate plans for a 75-room expansion on the east wing of the hotel.
Encore also teamed up with Hilton to build the first Embassy Suites-branded condo-hotel at Sunset Walk, next door to Margaritaville Hotel. The development team launched sales this month and plans to open the 300-unit condo-hotel in the summer of 2022.