Las Vegas Sun

November 25, 2015

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Las Vegas’ next thrill: High-flying balloon ‘bumper cars’


Provided by One Giant Leap

Concept art for Parabounce Vegas, pictured here, showcases the 100,000-square-foot facility near the Strip that would allow visitors to power helium balloons hundreds of feet in the air. Stephen Meadows, the concept’s inventor, hopes to debut Parabounce Vegas in 2011.

Click to enlarge photo

Stephen Meadows' Parabounce technology was on display at the closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Meadows is planning to debut "Parabounce Vegas" near the Strip in 2011.

In Stephen Meadows’ imagination, the sky isn’t even the limit. The innovator of Parabounce balloon technology is planning to bring his high-flying version of human-powered flight to the Las Vegas Strip next year.

Imagine this: 20 people, strapped to 22-foot helium balloons, floating and soaring about hundreds of feet in the air in a 100,000-square-foot “bubble dome.” Dubbed “Parabounce Vegas,” the venture will give its visitors an unforgettable experience, Meadows said.

Think of it as “3-D bumper cars,” he said.

“You’re flying. That’s the biggest thrill,” said Meadows, underlining the experience’s visceral appeal. The balloon’s design allows riders to navigate themselves, offering a complete sense of control in the air.

“It’s not an elevator ride,” Meadows said.

Meadows patented the Parabounce technology in 1996, initially using it for charity fundraising events. In 14 years since, Meadows and Parabounce have been featured on “The Today Show,” at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and landed on the White House lawn to greet then-President Bill Clinton.

The idea was born, Meadows said, when he was a child, tying plastic Army men and wads of paper to helium balloons. One day, he said, he wondered, “Why can’t I be the wad of paper?”

Decades later, Meadows said he is excited — “I have to contain myself” — to share the experience with everyone, regardless of physical prowess or disability.

Parabounce Vegas received preliminary approval for a lot near the Strip in 2008, and Meadows said he has investors at the ready.

With more than 40 million visitors a year and its reputation for the unexpected, Las Vegas is “probably the best place in the world” to launch Meadows’ new vision for the technology, he said.

“People here are very accepting of new ideas,” Meadows said. “They come here for new experiences.”

Meadows also plans to debut a new ParaBike — a flying bicycle — at the complex, as well as adding arcades and other features to supplement the “otherworldly experience.”

For those fearful of heights, Meadows was quick to point out that after 10 years and more than 1 million riders, Parabounce technology has never caused an injury.

Although “nothing is set in stone,” Meadows is planning to begin construction in May with an opening date later next year.

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