Nik Wallenda to practice for Grand Canyon at Sarasota park

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SARASOTA - Before Nik Wallenda walks a wire across the Grand Canyon next month, he'll prepare in his hometown. There's still some paperwork to complete, but Wallenda will practice at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota.

The park, located off Honore Avenue south of University Parkway, is primarily a rowing facility. But it's got one thing Nik needs to set up his practice wire: lots of space.

You can't just practice walking across the Grand Canyon anywhere. And it takes lots of work just to arrange setting up the practice wire between two cranes.

“We have to set it up near scale -- not exact scale -- but close to the amount of distance that I'll be facing, so that I can replicate the movement of the cable. The cable sort of takes a life of its own and moves back forth and up and down, and this will get me very comfortable leading up to it,” says Wallenda.

Nik was out at the park Thursday with the people who operate the facility to decide where to set up the equipment, and to make sure they have all the forms and agreements filled out -- including the insurance and county permits.

They also had to figure out how to avoid interfering with the ongoing construction, as the rowing park is still in the fairly early stages of its development. “There's always a lot to deal with in every aspect of what I do. People don't realize, they see me walking the wire and they think that's amazing and inspiring. But all the lead-up work, that's the tough part…getting the permits.”

Visit Sarasota County honored Nik Thursday morning with its Voice of Sarasota Award for the publicity he brings the area. He will train here for two weeks, finishing three days before he walks the wire across the Grand Canyon on June 23rd.

Virginia Haley from Visit Sarasota County says the cost for the two weeks will total about $120,000. The tourism bureau will foot about half of that, with donations and sponsorships covering the rest. “And to have someone from our circus family have to leave Sarasota to do this practice would just be a shame,” says Haley.

People will be allowed in to watch the practices, which was another part of the logistics they had to work out.

Wallenda’s walk across the canyon will air live on Discovery Channel.

Wallenda is currently seeking sponsors that would be interested in helping to offset the cost of the training walks either by donating services, equipment rentals, or monetary sponsorship in return for promotional opportunities.  Interested companies can send the inquiry to Joseph Mascitto, Executive Assistant to Nik Wallenda at

Nik is strictly looking to cover the costs of the training walk event. Anything that is raised via sponsorship beyond the amount for the training walk will be donated to a local charity.