Wallenda gets approval from city for bayfront tightrope walk

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SARASOTA – The Suncoast’s own daredevil is a step closer to performing a stunt over one of the area's busiest streets next week. City commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to let Nik Wallenda walk on a tightrope across U.S. 41 along the Sarasota bayfront.

And unlike his walk over Niagara Falls last year, they'll let him do it without a harness.

Wallenda’s is moving forward with plans to walk across a tightrope 180 feet in the air: from a crane near the Unconditional Surrender statue to the top of the Marina Tower building across U.S. 41, all to promote his appearance as the featured performer in Circus Sarasota this winter.

He was all smiles Tuesday night as he received the city's blessing to perform the stunt in his hometown of Sarasota. “It's about promoting this community to the world. I am not a selfish person. To me, this is the most beautiful city in the world. I want the world to know about it,” says Wallenda.

And the world may very well be watching as he crosses over one of Sarasota's busiest roads. “As I toured the city and looked around for an area that would make a breathtaking photo of Sarasota, that the whole world is going to see after Tuesday, I found this location on top of Marina Tower and knew it was the spot.”

Wallenda also knew that some may want him to wear a harness. “I wouldn't have done it to be honest if I had to wear a tether.”

In fact, city manager Tom Barwin made that recommendation, but city commissioners voted against it. “We feel very confident in Nik, because Nik feels confident. Nik is passionate about what he does. This is the dynamic of the Wallenda Family,” says Sarasota Mayor Suzanne Atwell.

Wallenda still has one more hurdle to cross. Since U.S. 41 will need to be closed off to traffic, he needs the approval from the Florida Department of Transportation. If he gets the green light, the walk will happen at 10:30am on Tuesday, January 29th.

As of right now, the only expense to the city will be somewhere between $6,200 and $8,400 to allow extra police officers to deal with the traffic the event may cause.