Foxwoods celebrates opening of new zipline
By car, it takes 1.2 miles to get from Fox Tower to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center. As the crow flies, it's about seven-tenths of a mile. But now the fastest way to get from Fox Tower to the museum is as the human flies.
With the new HighFlyer Zipline, a rider — one between 65 and 300 pounds, and under 6 feet 7 inches tall — can get from the top of Fox Tower to the base of the museum in about two minutes, reaching speeds of up to 60 miles per hour on a 3,750-foot-long cable.
"I think everyone likes to fly," said Brian Stewart, president of Redwood Parks Company, which operates the zipline. "I feel like if humans had wings, they would be a happier species."
Foxwoods Resort Casino debuted the zip line, with four lines that allow four riders to go down simultaneously, with a soft launch in mid-March. On Thursday, Foxwoods held a ribbon-cutting and media day for the project that has been a few years in the works.
Those interested in riding the zip line must sign a waiver and get weighed on the first floor of Fox Tower before being escorted to the 30th floor to get harnesses and listen to a brief safety training.
Next is a series of steps to get onto the roof and up on the launch pad. The cost to ride is $69 for adults, and $59 for kids under 15 and active military. Admission to the museum is half-price with a zip line ticket.
To Stewart, partnering with Foxwoods presented a unique opportunity: He said this is the only zip line in North America running from the top of a hotel. With most skyscrapers situated in cities, there aren't many opportunities to take off from a tall building and immediately be over treetops.
But with a unique experience came unique obstacles.
"The building was never designed to have such a heavy load attached to it," he said. Constructing the zip line meant bringing in the same architecture and engineering firms contracted for the original design of Fox Tower.
In June 2016, Foxwoods President Felix Rappaport said the zip line was expected to debut that October. In June 2017, Foxwoods announced the zip line would debut that summer.
The hours currently are noon to 6 p.m. but will be expanded in the summer. Stewart said the HighFlyer can run 80 people per hour and will have about 45 employees in the summer.
Fun fact: Three employees are currently able to pull themselves from the base of the zip line to the top. One said he can do it in 37 minutes.
After the ribbon-cutting on Thursday, the first two down the zip line were Rappaport and Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council.
"I would do it every day of my life if I could," Rappaport said afterward. "Unfortunately, my schedule is not that flexible."
He commented that the ride is different each time a patron goes; weather conditions and seasonal changes alone can make this true.
Thursday was breezy with temperatures in the upper 40s. Standing on the launch pad and looking over the expanse of trees below, some visitors thought about how marvelous the view must be during peak fall foliage.
Rappaport said the zipline is part of the casino's efforts to expand from being a gaming-centric locale to a world-class, full-service, integrated resort. He added that the land always has been sacred to the tribe, and so it was important to do something integrated into the environment.
"This is just the start," said Jason Guyot, senior vice president of operations at Foxwoods. "This is just the beginning, so we're definitely focused on expanding ecotourism."
He said there will be further announcements in the next six to 12 months.
IF YOU GO
What: HighFlyer Zipline
Where: Fox Tower Rotunda
When: Noon to 6 p.m. daily for now, with expanded hours in the summer
Tickets: $69 for adults; $59 for kids under 15 or active military with ID
Up in the air
When the opportunity to ride the new HighFlyer Zipline at Foxwoods came up at a newsroom meeting and I volunteered enthusiastically, some people seemed surprised at my lack of hesitancy. But I was surprised nobody else seemed as eager.
I've always been a fan of zip lines. As a kid, I enjoyed traversing through the trees on short zip lines while doing ropes courses at sleepaway camps in Woodward, Penn., and Saranac, N.Y. I most recently was on a zip line at Fields of Fire Adventure Park in Mystic last summer.
The longest zip line I've done was 3,981 feet, at Gunstock Mountain Resort in New Hampshire. I did the zip lines and "Aerial Treetop Adventures" there with my mom, who had experiencing a ropes course on her bucket list.
Thursday was the first time I've been on a zip line not in the summer, and it was rather nippy. (The zip line will be open year-round, so those unbothered by the cold can opt for a polar zip.)
When people hear that zip line riders can go up to 60 miles per hour, the assumption is it's a high-octane experience for thrill-seekers. But as I flew over the treetops, feeling snug in my harness and surveying the landscape below, what struck me was how peaceful it all felt. (It's worth mentioning, though, that I am not afraid of heights but rather am someone who actively seeks them out.)
The zip line experience varies based on length, maximum speeds reached and weather, but I've otherwise found the physical feeling to be fairly consistent. What makes the HighFlyer unique is how quickly you can get from hanging 330 above the ground to watching a big-name performer, or sitting at a poker table or shopping at the outlets.
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